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A Look into the 2015 People & Places Conference in Washington D.C.

Hi, I'm Amy Schaftlein, Development and Communications Director at United Housing. Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the People and Places Conference in Washington D.C. thanks to our partner organization, Livable Memphis. Livable Memphis sent me on a scholarship as an employee of United Housing, a member organization, and board member. I attended seven sessions covering housing and community development policy and advocacy and will share with you insights on these sessions through a lens of both a UHI employee and a volunteer on Livable Memphis board and Policy Sub-committee.

Amy Schaftlein, Development and Communications Director at United HousingThe conference focused not solely on what organizations are doing, but how organizations are working with residents, neighbors, youth, elderly and immigrant families to strengthen communities. As the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (CDCs) said, the residents and stakeholders have agency and are active participants in creating and sustaining parks, gardens and small businesses in traditionally forgotten neighborhoods. This conference saw community development practitioners not only as those employed at nonprofit and community development organizations but also as those living and working in neighborhoods every day - volunteering at community gardens, schools, and in advocacy campaigns in their cities.

People & Places has boasted that they are the most diverse and inclusive conference in more than a decade and there is evidence of that on every panel and in every discussion from talks on racial justice, to tackling issues facing immigrants in America today.

 

John Paul Shaffer with Livable Memphis presents on creative placemaking and tactical urbanism as innovative approaches to neighborhood revitalization.
John Paul Shaffer with Livable Memphis presents on creative placemaking and tactical urbanism as innovative approaches to neighborhood revitalization.

 

Speakers from leadership position in government included Deputy Secretary of Labor, Christopher Lu, at the Thursday breakfast event. He spoke about wage equality and doubling apprenticeships not only in manufacturing but also in the information sector, to help families increasing their education and earnings. At lunch, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, Jay Williams, noted a startling statistic, “While our production numbers are back to what they were in 2008, we got there with 1 million less workers.” That statement says a lot about our economy. Yes, it is getting better, but families are not feeling it because many are not contributing to it.

 

Assistant Secretary of Commerce Jay Williams with Steve Glaude, Executive Director of the Coalition of Neighborhood Housing and Economic Development. Photo courtesy of @CNHED.
Assistant Secretary of Commerce Jay Williams with Steve Glaude, Executive Director of the Coalition of Neighborhood Housing and Economic Development.
Photo courtesy of @CNHED.

 

Over the next several weeks I will share three takeaways I had from this conference. One, as community development practitioners, we should continue to find ways to incorporate the health sector in our work. Secondly, if Memphis wants to invest locally in our housing stock, one option may be to create a Housing Trust Fund and finding ways, locally to sustain it like the D.C. organization, Coalition of Neighborhood Housing and Economic Development proposed in their virtual tour. Finally, in order to strengthen neighborhoods, building the capacity of our community to advocate for local public policies that work in their neighborhoods will be central to creating the kinds of political will and buy-in necessary to fund a Housing Trust Fund and other funding and legislation that will help build community.

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