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The above title is a quote I heard recently by poet Nikki Giovanni that really resonated with me. It speaks to our constant striving to be better while also realizing that our past efforts were not in vain. This notion of this constant struggle is so appropriate for the challenging work of comprehensive community building that Beyond Housing carries out each and every day.
We have been engaged in this work for over a decade in the 24:1 footprint. When I drive through our community or talk to families, I realize there is still much to do. Homes need to be rehabbed or demolished. New homes need to be built. Vacant lots need to be cared for, and the damn trash needs to be picked up. Our schools need to be better. Our residents need more economic opportunity, and our families deserve to be financially stronger. There is still too much violence in our community.
All of this is true. But at the same time, we have also done so much and helped so many along the way.
The number of families we have served over the last ten years numbers well past 50,000. That means 50,000 families’ lives have improved in numerous ways, both big and small. They may have purchased a home, had their home rehabbed by us, or finally found a decent place to live in one of our rental homes.
They may have shopped at our Save A Lot grocery store—which has given the community much-needed access to affordable, healthy food—or they may have seen a movie at our movie theater.
They may have gotten care at the Affinia Healthcare center that we brought to the community.
They may gotten a loan or opened an account from Midwest Bank Centre who operates a full-service branch in our Rosie Shields Manor senior building.
They may have received back-to-school supplies from our Beyond the Backpack program or gifts for Christmas through our Holiday Friends program.
They may have received rent or utility assistance or a valuable resource from our Family Engagement Liaisons, Housing Resource Coordinators, or Community Health Workers. Their small business may have received support to grow and thrive.
They may have sent their children to our afterschool or summer programs or received help with college tuition with our Viking Advantage Program.
We can also talk about our work with the 23 municipalities in our footprint. The collaboration and coordination that now occurs is simply remarkable. The leadership of these communities works together on a variety of important civic tasks that range from master planning to code inspections, health insurance, disaster preparedness, trash collection, tree planting and care, and much more.
It is our hope and belief that not only are we strengthening families and transforming communities, we are helping to create a stronger, more equitable and prosperous St. Louis—once and for all.
We are achieving this through our comprehensive model that is built on the understanding that strengthening families and transforming communities isn’t simple—it’s complex and requires a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach. Over the years we have created the infrastructure of staff, partners, programs, and relationships that are essential for fulfilling our comprehensive model to create meaningful and lasting results.
It is true, we are better than we think we are but not quite what we want to be. At least, not yet.
I’ve been working in community development in the St. Louis area for 25 years, and I’ve been the CEO of Beyond Housing since 1993. While I’m proud of our accomplishments, I don’t claim to be an expert. At Beyond Housing, the experts we listen to are the voices of the community members we serve. I’ll be raising issues here that I believe matter to our community. I hope you’ll join the conversation. We do reserve the right not to post comments containing offensive language. To paraphrase Dr. King, we can disagree without being disagreeable.