Builders Workshop #17: On timebanking, housing and homelessness

HousingBWpanoramaThe topic of the July 23 Builders Workshop #17 was: How can we build a cooperative economy that better addresses issues of housing and homelessness?

We invited people to this workshop largely through those coordinating our work in the various projects we work with that pertain to issues of homelessness. I didn’t send a press release as I usually do, and broadcasts only went out to TimeBank members and email lists of housing advocacy and activist groups. This was because we wanted to brainstorm about how to build on the strengths and possible connections in and between each of our current projects, and then figure out how to move forward from there.

The attendance was wonderful and a great representation of different segments in the community. And the ideas that were brought to and generated by the group are pretty exciting and actionable.

HousingBW_whiteboardWe started with introducing ourselves – the lower right of the whiteboard is the record of the organizations represented. Dane County Timebank, Bethel Lutheran Church, We Help You advocacy organization, Homeless Services Consortium, Madison Area Urban Ministry, Dane County Human Services, Joining Forces for Families, Allied Community Coop, Legal Action, Madison Apprenticeship Program, MEET Center, Briarpatch/ Youth Services of Southern Wisconsin, Boys and Girls Club Allied Drive, and the Road Home.

I gave a brief overview of timebanking for the couple people who were new to it. Then we began listing the various projects currently connecting homeless people into the timebank. Bethel Lutheran Homeless Support Services is running a timebank store, engaging homeless people to help their and other organizations, and exchanging the hours earned for items such as tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, bus passes, and gift certificates. SHINE 608 also serves as a point of connection between the timebank and people who are homeless, and Maxine’s TimeBank Store on Allied Drive is a place where any timebank member can access donated goods.

Tiny Houses is a project of Occupy Madison that enables people to invest 500 hours of sweat equity in order to qualify for their own tiny house. 100 State is a co-working space on Madison’s State Street and is hosting a place-making project there, partnering with Dane County TimeBank to create a way for people to access the timebank from a publicly-accessible computer out on State Street. We expect to connect with many of the people living on the street and will host office hours at 100 State to sign them up as members and connect them with opportunities.

The Homeless Peer Court is a new effort in cooperation with Madison Municipal Judge Dan Koval and several homeless advocacy groups, which will begin by creating opportunities for homeless people to work of municipal fines through community service, and will build toward developing a full-fledged peer court modeled on Dane County TimeBank’s Youth Courts.

Once we gave the overviews of these projects and how they’re developing, we began to identify gaps and future avenues for further development.

Several participants identified a need to connect much more with the faith community. We planned to host a much larger meeting early this fall, with an emphasis on inviting faith organizations. We acknowledged that a focus on housing and homelessness would likely be more compelling to faith organizations than a simple timebanking focus has been in the past.

Participant Ron Burford, of Briarpatch/Youth Services of Southern Wisconsin, suggested that we could create street clean-up teams to clean our streets in exchange for timebank hours, and that the only need we would have in order to make it happen would be to provide supervision. He offered to help coordinate this project.

Participant Christopher Daly suggested that we could create localized projects for turning unused yard space in neighborhood blocks into little gardens, a la Food Not Lawns. He agreed to coordinate a pilot effort.

Participant Garrett Lee suggested helping organize a coordinated transportation network for commonly-needed errands for people living on or near State Street. We realized it might make sense to pilot a Neighbor-to-Neighbor Care Team for/in this community.

The discussion was rich and rewarding. We had so much connecting to do that we had to skimp on how to use all of these tools to work more comprehensively toward getting people into stable housing, and creating a housing economy that’s much less brutal. We will pick up on those discussions as we continue to move forward.

Stay tuned for a larger group gathering in early September.

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