"The world will be saved by beauty" - Dorothy Day
Since starting my AmeriCorps service at NeighborLink, I have started to notice many things that my eyes never even recognized. From going on house visits with my coworkers and spending my own time exploring neighborhoods, I've started to look more closely at the details of houses.
Is the paint peeling? Is the roof missing shingles? Does the porch seem slightly askew? Are there broken windows? And last, but certainly not least, are there trees growing in the gutter?
Askewed Porch Roof
This last question, I never thought I would ask. I don't have much experience with gutters and foliage attempting to live in them, but there are some houses in the five neighborhoods
I research that have gutters which could be mistaken for tree farms. How does this even happen? Well, if you are so lucky as to live in a neighborhood with old trees ( i.e. that are
taller than your house) then the trees' seeds end up falling into your gutters, and if you don't clean them for several years, those seeds end up growing in the mass of dead leaves
that are also in your gutters.
This is a necessary part of home ownership, but for many people, like myself, it never has been a priority or even seemed that important. However, clean gutters are very crucial to protect a home's foundation, preventing roof rot and other expensive problems (see https://www.homestructions.com/general/importance-cleaning-gutters/ for more information). Part of my job facilitating the Homeowner Improvement Program (HIP) Grant includes going to visit homeowners when delivering them their grant, which means I get to talk with them about their home repairs.
Several neighbors have decided to use their funds to clear the forests in their gutters, which many times creates a ripple effect of neighbors starting to take care of their house, too. When all the houses have been neglected, it is hard to see sometimes where the work needs to start. It only takes one neighbor in order to build beautification momentum in a neighborhood. That's part of why HIP exists, to give a little fuel to the home improvement fire in a neighborhood.
Little Gutter Forests
Beyond just blights and neighborhood eyesores, or little gutter forests, seeing vacant lots and homes or just general neighborhood disorder, has a detrimental impact on emotional, physical and mental health, plus reducing social cohesion.
https://www.who.int/sustainable-development/cities/health-risks/urban-green-space/en/ :https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665973/ /; https://stresscenter.ucsf.edu/measures/neighborhood-safety-cohesion
Seeing houses and yards being cared for does more than just raise property values, it shows respect, mutual concern, and good stewardship - something truly beautiful. Just as it is disturbing to watch someone destroy something, it is unsettling to watch a home fall into decay, and it is even worse when you realize the homeowner wants to take care of their house, but can't. That's why NeighborLink steps in, to make connections, meet needs and make the world beautiful.
- Bernie -
These are just a few of the insights I've gained, and I'm sure I will be sharing more over the next year, stay tuned! Also check out my weekly vlog, "Bernie on a Journey," found on NeighborLink's YouTube page https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChi85wxa93aJ7lAD19MWiyw - Bernie
Bernadette aka "Bernie" is AmeriCorpsVISTA ambassador for NeighborLink. Follow her year-long journey as she gains insights as the Community Relations & Research Coordinator. This is part of NeighborLink's comprehensive research project to better understand what makes a healthy neighborhood healthy here in Fort Wayne, IN. We are diving into Hoagland Masterson, North Highlands, Pettit-Rudisill, West Central, and Williams Woodlands neighborhoods. Stay tuned to learn more and hear discoveries from Bernie's perspective and findings.