Community Workshop Reflection
As noon grew closer, increasing numbers of people puttered around the hall, full plates precariously balanced as they navigated their way into the meeting room. Anna sat at the welcome table, the handmade welcome poster fluttering, as people filed inside. As I walked into the room, I was greeted by quickly-filling tables and excited chatter. I wove my way to a table in the nearest corner, happily surprised with the assortment of people I encountered. As we greeted one another, I realized that the people at the table were not from the same organization. They had dutifully spread out to intermingle with individuals from other organizations. As we moved to greet one another, Sam stepped up to the mic, engaging us in the World Cafe. We were prompted to write down what we believe are the U District community's biggest strengths, as well as direst needs.
At this table we threw out a bevy of ideas, writing them down on sticky notes as we went. Our ideas centered mostly around housing. We talked about the duration of housing programs and the issues this duration causes. Many individuals seemed to concur that the housing programs were far too stringent and far too unified. Each program was similar, following similar time schedules, engaging people in similar ways, and admitting the same type of applicant. Eventually, our conversation wound down. Around this time, Sam invited individuals in the room to move. I shifted to the table in front of the first, sitting beside an individual who worked at the Rest Stops (they did not specify which one they worked with). Other people began to filter in around us, and we started up a conversation. This conversation did not result in the creation of more sticky notes, nor did we read the notes left on the table. Instead, we centered in on specific issues and began to discuss them in depth.
One of the key issues talked about was restrooms, and the fact that the need for restrooms will increase as the light rail is finished. The plan does not include bathrooms, which is odd because of the vast need. We also discussed the importance of having facilities that were open to people of all age groups. The Rest Stop individual had seen far more elderly and aging individuals than they had thought they would, and far fewer teens. As we shifted to the third table, this conversation stayed in my mind. Here, we met with Josephine and with individuals who work in fields relating to chemical dependency. This time, we attempted to read the notes from the first table. Of course, the conversation again spun itself into something larger, and we began talking about both chemical issues, and veterinary/pet care.
After this session, I did not have much time to interact with others until the speech about integrating communities. I observed the speech from the back of the room. When we were tasked with getting to know the valuable traits of other people, I bee lined for a small table at the back with only three residents. I sat down next to a man who worked for the city of Seattle and we began to talk about his skills as a cartoonist. This conversation made us both realize the importance of hobbies and creativity, a theme echoed throughout the rest of the meeting.
When the meeting drew to a close, we met in small groups to discuss issues that we would like to address, and the plans we would like to enact to do so. While I felt I had little to share, I decided to engage with a group anyway. I chose to join Lisa Kelly and Laurel Snow, who were in a group in the back by themselves. Their group focused on education, a topic that seemed to excite the both of them heavily. The conversation revolved around two very different ideas. The first was a proposal to convince the University to allow a certain number of service providers to send employees to ad-hoc courses (specifically language courses). The second involved creating campus-like spaces that allow individuals to get accustomed to the university housing and lifestyle. The fact that university buildings are not used over the summer was referenced.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable day, and I felt that I learned a great deal. The excitement in the room was palpable, and people had no qualms with dreaming big.