One of the core tenets of FCS and our housing ministry, Charis Community Housing, is the value of neighboring. We practice local living, believing that everyone needs each other. There is beauty in doing life together and raising families together.
When FCS began work in the neighborhood of East Lake many years ago, we included a Strategic Neighbor Program. This program established an official structure for individuals who desired to move to a low-income neighborhood, motivated by their Christian faith and their commitment to reconciliation, restoration, and redistribution.
Strategic Neighbors received rental assistance and stipends to support their work in the community. They also attended regular meetings with other Strategic Neighbors. This programming worked well during our time in East Lake, and the program remained in East Lake even as FCS’ focus shifted to South Atlanta.
We did not establish a similar Strategic Neighbor program in South Atlanta. Instead, we began to consider historical residents in the community who had invited us to join their commitment to the neighborhood. Their faith had encouraged them to live purposefully on their streets and in the overall community. Each of these residents held a great deal of spiritual and communal wisdom to share with others.
We began to question the term “Strategic Neighbor” and why it would apply to new neighbors any more than these long-time residents. We recognized that without an official program in place, we also needed a new, more inclusive term to talk about those working for transformation of the community.
A great deal of thought and debating resulted in the phrase “intentional neighboring” to describe the on-the-ground community work happening in South Atlanta. This wording is more of a verb than a noun. It’s not a job description, nor a checklist of what to do or not to do. Rather, it describes purposeful living in whatever place God has called you.
We encourage others who are moving into distressed communities to partner with the residents already working for good. We emphasize neighborhood leadership and a commitment to mixed-income housing development. We believe this partnership strategy builds into the neighborhood’s social, spiritual, and economic vitality. Together, intentional neighbors can and do have a big impact on their community.
This post was originally posted on the Charis Community Housing blog.