Building community is central to our work at Maiker Housing Partners. Like other affordable housers, our first commitment to the community is the provision of healthy, safe and affordable communities in Adams County. But in Maiker’s theory of change, we go the extra mile to facilitate connection and build power among our members through community organizing. This essential connecting work is led by the organizers and engagers that work on Maiker’s Family and Community Vitality (FCV) Team.
“Being a community organizer means to listen and uplift what strengths people already have and understand the barriers that are in the way to them getting what they need,” said Erica Lee, community organizer at Maiker. “We get to work in the realm of possibility – taking what we hear from the community about what they think is impossible and helping them reframe and change that narrative.”
The practices and structures of our community systems tend to identify people by their needs and deficits, and then seek to fill those needs. Maiker’s community organizers work to flip that dynamic by first and foremost, uncovering the gifts, talents and hopes of our members. From there, members approach their work in the community from a position of collective strength. With support from our community organizers, Maiker members work together to create more opportunities for neighborly engagement, improve their built environment, and change policies in systems that impact them.
“We have community rooms and walking paths and other structures that people don’t always know how to use. When we work with the community to activate those spaces, we bring them to life and build connections. It contributes to the mental health, sense of belonging and feeling of safety in our communities,” Lee shared.
The FCV team is currently building up a suite of programs, training and engagement opportunities that will be available for members to engage with as residents of Adams County. One of these programs, Community Voice for Action (CVA), is a community organizing and training institute led by Southwest Adams County residents and supported by Maiker, Growing Home and Early Childhood Partnership of Adams County.
“There’s an authentic demand from the community for organizing training,” said Lee. “CVA is Community Organizing 101, teaching people how to strengthen their skills and engage with their neighbors.”
Another program available to our members is Neighbor Circles at Alto Apartments. This program is an opportunity for members to hear each others’ stories, build stronger neighborly bonds, identify something they’d like to do together, and take action. Currently in its early stages, Neighbor Circles demonstrate the value authentic organizing brings to Maiker communities – particularly through our introductory mapping activity. At the beginning of our Neighbor Circle conversations, our community organizers facilitate a mapping activity to help members understand more about their neighbors’ history.
“The mapping exercise helps us understand each other’s world view. It’s an entry way into discussing the issues we care about and what we’re doing to do about it. Understanding where people come from in the world is revolutionary,” said Lee.
Over the next several months, the FCV team looks forward to engaging more members and continuing to build out this suite of programs. This member-centered, member-driven work illustrates the importance of creating space for people in Adams County to connect and share their stories.
Follow along on our blog and social media to get the latest updates on how Maiker members are advocating for one another through community organizing. We’re grateful we get to build a community alongside them.