My days at Habitat are essentially filled with research. However, I’m spitting our reports on issues and institutions that I find fascinating, so it doesn’t feel much like work. My boss, Michelle, has been so wonderful to allow me to pursue my interests that lie within the scope of Habitat’s work but may not be aligned exactly with my tasks. For example, I’ve been researching Columbus’ rich history with urban renewal and gentrification. We have prime exhibits of neighborhood revitalization in Old Town East, Victorian Village, Italian Village, and most recently Weinland Park. I have had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Michael Wilkos of The Columbus Foundation about his work in Weinland Park and the history of the successful community development partnerships with various regional entities since the 1990s. He truly is a wealth of information.
Right now Michelle and I are forging relationships with community members in the Milo-Grogan neighborhood and orchestrating community meetings that are slated for July. These meetings are the vital preliminary stages of the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) that will dictate the future of the program in Milo-Grogan. As stipulated by NRI, Habitat-Greater Columbus will take a minimal role in the decision-making process of the community. The initiative is to be community-driven, organically grown from residents and associations that live and operate within the neighborhood.
My co-workers are especially enchanting. It seems as though my questions never cease. For example, I spoke with Melissa for about 45 minutes about HUD policies and mortgage procedures while standing in her doorway. Everyone has been extremely inviting and engaging with me throughout these first two weeks. I only look ahead with motivation and anticipation as the task slowly comes together day by day. We have lots and lots of work to do, many surveys to complete, many conversations to have.