By NERSC Board Member, Karen Futoma,
Connecticut Housing Finance Authority
As Mister Rogers also said, “Please, won’t you be… my neighbor?”
Many of us have “welcome mats” at our front doors. While they serve a dual purpose as we wipe our feet off on them, they also serve as a kind invitation to those who enter our homes as guests. While this symbol is placed at the entrance to our home, we sometimes lose sight of extending that welcome beyond our front doors….into our larger community, as good neighbors.
While we often hear the common adage of “Love Thy Neighbor” in promoting the ideal sense of community, we are often acutely aware that this isn’t always possible or desired. This perceived lack of “neighborliness” may be rooted in one’s preferences of solitude, negative or traumatic past events or relationships, fear and/or anxiety, challenging social skills, physical and/or mental health, substance use, stigma and stereotypes.
We all know family, friends, neighbors and co-workers that exhibit behaviors that irritate us at times or perhaps it seems all of the time. Our past experiences formulate who we become and how we relate to other people and situations. Are they going through a personal struggle or facing some life challenge? What about you? Have you done any self-reflection to see how you may come across to others and your life experiences that may contribute to it? How might you change your reaction/response to those we may find hurtful, bothersome or intolerable? How might you change your behaviors that others may find hurtful, bothersome or intolerable?
We don’t have to love or even like each other, but R-E-S-P-E-C-T is a M-U-S-T.
We can agree to disagree, but we often have to give and take to live/work harmoniously.
In multifamily housing, you have immediate neighbors above, next to and/or below you…each with their own lifestyles, habits, personalities and preferences. While there are walls and floors that separate residents, excessive noise complaints can be a common grievance. Whether it be music, vacuuming, children playing/running, loud voices/yelling, living in close proximity has its challenges.
Management can assist by offering clear “good neighbor” policies that can extend beyond the requirements of a lease. Post positive attributes/reminders/policies of a welcoming, friendly and neighborly community in common areas such as community rooms, hallways, elevators and in newsletters. Provide workshops that promote skills to be a good neighbor, enhance tolerance, compassion, patience and understanding for those that are different from us or struggle with physical, mental health or substance use.
Offer and review policies and procedures for resolving differences between residents and residents/management. Often, we avoid uncomfortable conversations until something escalates. Offer a conflict resolution program or mediation, and perhaps provide helpful related material residents read and sign off on, along with their lease. You may want to consult with your attorney as to best policies and procedures.
Network with other RSCs to learn best practices in creating a welcoming community.
Lead by example.
Perhaps tenants can assist in the development or enhancement of a warm welcome packet which promotes these ideals.
National Good Neighbor Day is observed annually on September 28th. Plan a Good Neighbor Day event that may include a potluck, a sundae bar, an activity or project that enhances the overall community, promoting neighborliness…such as a community garden. Ask people to list positive things they can individually and as a group do to promote a welcoming community.
Make an action plan, make it happen!