Over the past two weeks, Bethany and I have been immersed in the culture of Clare Housing. We have met many staff members, shared our project ideas, and now feel comfortable at Clare Midtown. Last week we had the chance to go door-to-door passing out information booklets previously made by a girl scout. The booklets are guides of resources around the Twin Cities (nearby banks, taxi services, bus routes, grocery stores, etc.) For the residents who answered their doors, we had a chance to hand them a booklet, introduce ourselves, and briefly explain our summer project. Many residents seemed excited to meet us and willing participate in activities. They helped us brainstorm ideas of events they wanted to see at Midtown. One resident really wanted a bowling night, so we ended up planning one for Sunday, June 5. We placed a sign up sheet on the front desk at Midtown, and within three days, over ten people had signed up. Now we just have to wait and see if all of them actually show up on Sunday. After hosting three events, we are beginning to change our definition of success. Is an event a success if four people participate? Ten people? We hosted a cookie baking event last week, and only resident helped bake the cookies. At first we were disappointed–we wanted a large turnout because that would indicate that our community building strategies were working. However, upon reflection and discussion, we realized that we did affect one resident. This was a chance for his voice to be heard and for him to feel welcome in a community space.
Our biggest challenge is figuring out how to meet the needs of the population with which we are working. We realize that we do not come from the same background or share exactly the same experiences as someone who is HIV positive. I often find myself wondering if residents would prefer to be left alone, and simply don’t care that they don’t know their neighbors. Since this is apartment-style living, every resident has the right to privacy. We are still trying to find a balance of reaching out to residents while respecting their personal space. However, I believe that there are residents who would love to feel like part of a community and just need someone to schedule events that will make them feel comfortable in new social situations.