20 Ways Homeowners Can Help to Build a Stronger Community in 2020
Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much. History shows just how much can be accomplished when people come together to work towards a larger goal. Coming into the new year, consider strengthening your community ties and making your neighbourhood or even your city a better place to be for everyone who lives there.
By joining a community planning committee, volunteering, organizing community programs or movements, or contributing to crowdfunded projects, you can help affect change in countless ways.
- Create new seating
One big problem that most cities have is a lack of public seating. Putting together makeshift seating on street corners or outside bus stops or shopping centres can drastically change the atmosphere and pleasantness of a community, and encourage people who might not otherwise get out for long periods, such as elderly or disabled people, spend more time enjoying what your community has to offer. It can also spruce up a city with unique and unconventional designs!
- Plant a tree
There are so few things as simple or as beneficial as planting a tree. Adding new greenery can completely transform a city’s overall look, taking it from a drab urban backdrop to something far more fresh and alive. There are many local restrictions when it comes to planting, but checking in on the bylaws or investigating tree-planting initiatives in your community is a great first step for improving your local landscape and making your community more sustainable.
- Transform local alleys
Side alleys and grungy industrial walls are a natural part of every established city. But these spaces don’t necessarily need to be stained concrete walls and rusting metal–by arranging a movement to beautify these spaces, you can outsource local talent and turn these bland or decrepit areas into colourful works of art all while supporting local artists and coming together to do something creative with your neighbours.This transformation can turn your community into something to be proud of, and create a beautiful, one-of-a-kind displays.
- Reclaim your streets
Almost every city has abandoned lots and unused paved areas. You can join the movement and find out how to “free your soil” from the group Depave, which has been turning unused paved spaces into community parks and gardens for decades. Breaking up and removing old asphalt not only frees your soil, but it allows nature to reclaim a little bit more of the earth, and encourages community engagement through these new spaces where neighbours can come together and enjoy the fresh air and each other’s company, all while making your city a little greener.
- Think outside the box
Walls aren’t the only unconventional canvas cities have to offer. Mailboxes, utility boxes, and trash cans line city streets in a necessary but usually unattractive manner. Contacting your city council and arranging a movement to turn these boxes into works of art turns your city into a beautiful, creative environment. Show off local talent, advocate for the importance of the arts, or even advertise other community engagement projects to inspire others to join you in making your city a better place to live.
- Turn an underpass into a park
The dark, concealed nature of underpasses has been alluring to those conducting illegal activities for as long as bridges have existed. But starting an initiative to turn these concealed locations into well-lit, functional community spaces opens a new realm of possibilities for citizens of any city. Turning an underpass into a skate and recreation park, public art galleries, a place to host popup farmer’s markets and events, or even basketball courts shaded for the summer can give a previously ugly and abandoned space into something useful for the whole community to enjoy while simultaneously making your neighbourhood safer.
- Create fun stress relief for adults
In our fast-paced society, the need for stress relief is ever increasing. Due to this, there has been an increasing demand for simple ways for adults to find stress relief, opening the doors for more places to unwind and work out. Programs like Montreal’s 21 Swings project creates interactive spaces where adults can enjoy the fun of swing sets in busy areas. Creating an environment of play and fun can change the way you interact with your community, and open people up to socializing and enjoying themselves in your city.
- Let kids have a say
Community planning shouldn’t just be for the adults to decide. If kids are the ones using playgrounds, shouldn’t they have a say? Utilizing the creativity of our youngest community members encourages lifelong interest in community engagement and allows a unique relationship with your city’s own infrastructure, as well as completely unique playgrounds that express the heart of your community. Let their dreams become reality as they watch their designs come to life!
- Upgrade your bus stops
Make your morning commute or running errands more interesting, and petition to upgrade this city infrastructure into something engaging or multi-functional. Cities across the world have come together as communities to turn their bus stops into transit/cycling hubs with Memphis’ Ride. Rally. Ride. or Cleveland’s Bus Stop Moves that provides fitness instructions on the walls, promoting healthy lifestyles and creating more interesting, engaging bus stops.
- Make your parks accessible
Most people don’t consider the lack of accessibility in local playgrounds until they attend one with a disabled child. Pushing your city into funding wheelchair accessible swings, ramps to enter and exit the playground, descriptions in braille, and even accessible merry-go-rounds can change a local playground to be something inclusive that all children can enjoy instead of excluding so many.
- Everybody deserves basic amenities
The housing crisis that plagues countless cities worldwide isn’t something that can be solved overnight, but homeowners can help out by organizing mobile showers or helping push for more public washrooms to help homeless community members have some basic hygiene and privacy for even a short while. Down with bathrooms for customers only–everyone needs to go, and everybody should be afforded this basic human right.
Whether it’s for a charity event or sitting in on a council, there are countless opportunities in every neighbourhood where you can get involved in changing your city’s future and help others through various organizations or projects. Anyone can do their part!
- Engage with your local homeless population
If you live in an urban area, homeless people become part of the landscape. Day after day they experience marginalization and are overlooked by most people. Spend some time engaging with homeless people near your favourite shop, or down the street from you, and help them feel more like a person for a short while. Being acknowledged as a human being and having a good conversation goes a long way, and it comes at no cost to you.
- Time banking
Time is money! By joining a time bank–or, if your city doesn’t have one, then creating one–you change the way you view your time and engage with your community. By putting in hours to do something for others, you ‘earn’ credits, and redeem them to receive a service or learn a new skill in return. Time banks are great for helping those in need in your community, learning new things, sharing your passions, and meeting new people.
- Promote accessible fitness
Getting fit is often a process many people simply don’t have the time or money for, or is something that people don’t know where to begin. A community in San Francisco had a creative solution to this: creating a path around the neighbourhood with exercise prompts and stations great for anyone looking to improve their fitness with no commitment and no fees. This has the added side-effect of bringing people together in a fun way, making friends doing simple workouts in the streets!
- Support local business
Every city has its local businesses. Some are hidden gems, and some have had resounding success. Supporting your local businesses, no matter the scale, has many chain effects on your community. Creating a bigger job market and local economy, supporting local entrepreneurs, decreasing emissions and costs of transportation, and simply knowing that you’re helping your own community flourish!
- Green initiatives
Sometimes all it takes is a little communication and willpower to help stop climate change. It may seem like small things, but working together within your neighbourhood to fund green energy, organize carpools, and learn how to reduce energy usage can help reduce your community’s carbon footprint over time.
- Community gardens
Nothing builds companionship like hard work, and very little is as satisfying as the feeling of growing something under your own care. Community gardens are a great way to help feed those in your neighbourhood who can’t afford as many groceries, connect with the community, connect with the earth, and learn valuable new skills. This is a great family-friendly community engagement project, which can even help educate kids on the importance of fresh air, community, and hard work.
- Track community produce
Every neighbourhood has its trees and bushes, many of which produce fruit at least once a year. Locating edible fruits in your neighbourhood and broadcasting their locations can contribute to healthy eating, local produce, and cutting back both grocery bills and community waste by taking advantage of what nature has to offer. So long as it isn’t on private property, of course!
Society is always moving forward, and we need to keep up. Continuing education is expensive and exclusive, but communities can change that. Holding seminars or community events and meetings to help raise awareness for social issues, infrastructure, various industry changes, and skills that many older citizens have never had the chance to learn can help your community as a whole move into the future. Making education accessible even in a small way can make a huge difference.
Everybody can do their part, no matter how small. But implementing community programs and initiatives can change the way you view your city, your neighbours, and your impact on the world around you in a way that can be eye-opening and inspiring. Make a difference in 2020, and change your community for the better.
For more ideas, check out 101 Small Ways You Can Improve Your City