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Resource fair connects Heartside residents to local resources

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Downtown/Heartside residents connecting with local resources contributes to long-term housing stability.
Local Organizations & Residents Meet at 2023 Neighborhood Knowledge Exchange

Local Organizations & Residents Meet at 2023 Neighborhood Knowledge Exchange /Dwelling Place/Jessica Sanchez

Jonathan DeHaan Community Garden Coordinator of Dwelling Place shared gardening tips at the 2023 NKE

Jonathan DeHaan Community Garden Coordinator of Dwelling Place shared gardening tips at the 2023 NKE /Dwelling Place/Jessica Sanchez

The Community Building and Engagement (CB&E) department of Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids brought together representatives from 19 local agencies to share information with residents on quality-of-life resources at their annual Neighborhood Knowledge Exchange event held in November 2023. 

Jenn Schaub, Director of the CB&E department said, "Neighbor Knowledge exchange is a valuable resource for neighbors to connect directly with organizations serving Heartside and of course each other!" 

Kenny Acker, Americorps Neighborhood Engagement Coordinator for CB&E, presented a Quality-Of-Life display based on surveys, listening sessions and focus groups of Heartside residents. This survey work was done in partnership with NeighborWorks and Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. NKE participants were also invited to add more recommendations to the display using sticky notes 

 

We were able to find out which recommendations resonated the most with people. The most significant are to have a police presence and to have accessibility to grocery,” said Acker.  

 

Julie Niemchick, Crime Prevention Coordinator with the Grand Rapids Police Department shared information about apartment and condo safety, car larceny prevention, victim advocacy services, personal safety, Smart 911, and volunteer opportunities. “[Neighborhood Knowledge Exchange is] a great one-stop-shop of resources for folks who live downtown,” said Niemchick. 

Participants were invited to receive a free credit report from United Bank, and information on services offered by the AYA Youth Collective, Degage Ministries, Downtown Ambassadors, Grand Rapids Public Library, The Grand Rapids Red Project, Network 180, YWCA, and others. 

Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. (DGRI), Neighborhood Experience Manager, Kendsie Channing, promoted ways for downtown neighbors to get involved through the Downtown Neighbor Network. Channing said, “It is critically important to connect people to resources in our community.” DGRI offers social gatherings such as an annual holiday party, and information sessions, to neighbors to stay connected about what is happening in the downtown neighborhood, such as efforts to improve walking and biking safety. 

Those who attended the NKE filled out a survey while at the event which found:  

  • 95% strongly agreed they were satisfied with NKE and that they would attend similar events in the future.
  • 85% strongly agreed or agreed that they were able to participate in the conversation and that resident voices were essential to this event. 
  • 100% said they’ve had the opportunity to shared idea or helped make decisions in their neighborhood 
  • “This is a brilliant event!” - Neighborhood Knowledge Exchange attendee. 
  • “I would love to see these all over the city.” - Neighborhood Knowledge Exchange attendee.

 

Channing said, “[Neighborhood Knowledge Exhange] is a perfect demonstration of “go to the people” rather than forcing people to go out of their way to go to the services they need.”  

"We hope to create a series of mini–Neighbor Knowledge Exchange events in 2024 that have more specific themes like health or safety! Plans are still in the works but hopefully we will be able to announce the new series in January 2024,” said Schaub 

 

With a mission to improve the lives of people by creating quality affordable housing, providing essential support services, and serving as a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization, Dwelling Place serves families and people in 4 counties across West Michigan. Dwelling Place is powered by volunteers and numerous staff persons, interns, Americorps workers, and guest writers. Thanks to JD Sullivan, Americorps/VISTA CB&E Communications Coordinator for his contribution of this article.

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