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4 ways to build community today

home sweet home

Image courtesy NorthWestGifts.com

by Mary Peterson, Housing Consultant

The mothers often arrive to our homes without a social safety net. Many have burned bridges in their relationships, or are coming from a history of deep dysfunction.

In addition to all of the other skills we encourage, such as life skills, educational attainment, and parenting strategies, maternity homes are meant to model and teach relationship. In our example and structures, homes invite the moms into regular, healthy interactions.

Beyond the high-drama, over-sharing, or closed-off habits, we invite the moms to build a network of genuine friendships.

We are inviting them into community.

With that said, the big question becomes "How?" Here's a few practical brainstorms to consider!

1. Direct Traffic

Goal: Use the physical space to encourage people to interact.

  • Put the phone / message boards / calendar in the common area.
  • Put the computer in the common area.
  • Only use the primary entrance (nearest the common area) of the home.
  • Have extra heat and/or air conditioning in the common area.

2. Set the Tone

Goal: From the very first moment she arrives, welcome the mom as a true member in the home.

  • Paint a picture during the intake of belonging, family, and community life.
  • Have welcome baskets or signs.
  • Have the moms complete a roommate agreement to curtail disagreements early.
  • Build a quick welcoming routine that is simple (i.e. over dinner or at the house meeting).
  • Immediately put the mom's name on the chore list, the message board, etc.
  • Give the mom a t-shirt from your home.
  • Have another mom give an "insider" tour of the home.

3. Build Routines

Goal: Build a relational aspect into every part of your structure.

  • Include community-building moments into your house meetings by celebrating achievements of the week, doing a quick moment of personal sharing, or having a chance for discussion on issues that affect everyone.
  • Go on house outings together.
  • Consider a house vacation together—does a donor have a cabin you could use?
  • Build a "goodbye" ritual to honor moms who are leaving.

4. Create a Culture

Goal: Have anyone within the home embrace a culture of belonging.

  • Have the mom make gestures of commitment (i.e. signing her name to the rules, signing an agreement of stay).
  • Develop language that elevates the dignity of the mother.
  • Write down the key points that build a sense of community so that they can be shared.
  • Train your volunteers on the language and culture of building community.
  • Build a structure around the ongoing relationship with the mom.

I know you have more ideas. Share them with me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I would love to hear them!