Blog NKCDC Sustaining Change with NeighborWorks America

This NeighborWorks week, NKCDC is proud to be a part of a national network of more than 250 organizations celebrating how NeighborWorks America empowers communities for success. 

NKCDC is one of two NeighborWorks chartered members in Philadelphia – the only other being our neighbor, HACE CDC! NeighborWorks provides us with a critical operating grant, keeps us connected to a network of peers, and builds our skills as an organization through training and leadership development opportunities.  

Since 2001, NeighborWorks has been a pillar for NKCDC. They have supported us with a range of educational, technical, and financial assistance, enabling us to build our skills and capacity to deliver greater impact to the communities we serve. 

 A blueprint for resident leadership

In 1968, Dorothy Richardson led her neighbors in the Central North Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh to fight back against community decay and divestment. She brought regulators and elected officials, bankers, and affordable housing advocates to the table to try to remedy the problems of housing affordability, gentrification, and redlining. 

This work led to the founding of Neighborhood Housing Services of Pittsburg, the first NeighborWorks organization, and paved the way for resident-driven, place-based community development across America.

The challenges that Dorothy Richardson fought against in the Central North Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh, and the strategies to address them, are incredibly similar to the challenges that Kensington faces. With NeighborWorks America’s steadfast support and vision for comprehensive community development, we can follow this blueprint for resident leadership and continue to center and elevate the voices of residents to ensure solutions in Kensington are being co-created by those with the lived expertise.  

Dorothy Richardson improved North Side community in Pittsburgh
Dorothy Richardson

NeighborWorks Training Institute builds our skills at a critical time

This past February, Guillermo Gomez, NKCDC’s Housing Services Manager, attended the NeighborWorks Training Institute in San Francisco. 

“The provide an outstanding training program for housing counselors,” Guillermo says, “not only personally have I grown the skills I have, NeighborWorks has allowed me to think about the quality of service we provide.”  

NeighborWorks training and certification offerings provide NKCDC with professional development opportunities that keep us at the cutting edge of community development and keep us connected to a network of peers to engage with and learn from. 

Guillermo emphasized how national training allows him to take a broader look at housing services , to learn from a network of peers about what’s being done across the country, and to bring those ideas to NKCDC to build on our housing services.  

Guillermo was able to receive certifications in Rental Eviction Intervention and Advance Foreclosure this past February and can now service clients in Philadelphia who face foreclosures. 

This training is building our capacity at a critical time. As part of a larger participatory planning process in Kensington that is pushing forward comprehensive, community-driven, and trauma-informed strategies for neighborhood revitalization, NKCDC launched $1.5 million in eviction and foreclosure prevention assistance at the end of February. The technical training NeighborWorks provides will support our ability to prevent displacement in one of the hardest hit areas from the opioid epidemic.  

From February 10th to February 14th, the NeighborWorks Training Institute will be in Philadelphia! NeighborWorks Training Institutes offer content designed and delivered by expert practitioners and thought leaders in the nonprofit, community development, and affordable housing arenas. Most courses even count toward professional certificates and certifications. Stay tuned for registration for Philadelphia and learn more about the NeighborWorks Training Institute here! 

NKCDC Housing Services Managers Guillermo Gomez and Sophia Bell

AmeriCorps VISTA helps us fight displacement

In partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service, NeighborWorks sponsors one of the largest national AmeriCorps VISTA programs in the United States.  

Kaiima Griffiths, NKCDC’s Kensington Anti-Displacement VISTA, joined our team last year to help us understand more about how rapid market rate development and real estate speculation is impacting the neighborhood.  

Nicole Westerman, NKCDC’s VP of Real Estate and Economic Development, notes that the goal for Kaiima’s year of service is to build on the knowledge and experience within our organization so that all our programs and team members can engage in anti-displacement work. 

“More than anything, when our programs are doing outreach with the community, we want to reach those residents who won’t make it into NKCDC,” Kaiima says. “If there’s more of a system that people can connect to throughout NKCDC, we can train the entire organization in anti-displacement work.”  

“We’re now at a point where we’ve seen several years of increased appetite from investors and speculative developers accumulating properties,” Nicole says. “After years of residents bearing the brunt of the drug market and violence, now they’re faced with developers that are going to increase property taxes and drive residents out.”  

Kensington has some of the oldest housing stock in Philadelphia, leading to cost prohibitive repairs and upkeep. Meanwhile, nearly 4,100 units of new construction have been built or proposed in the area since 2017, driving up home costs. At the same time, private investment and speculative development have left a housing market ripe for exploitation. This places residents at a significantly higher risk of displacement than the rest of Philadelphia. 

Kaiima’s work is to compile knowledge across programs so that anybody at NKCDC can help connect residents at risk of displacement to the resources that will help them stay in their homes. By building systems informed by data to identify individuals that could benefit from anti-displacement resources and by building relationships with residents, Kaiima also helps us understand how real estate speculation is directly impacting the neighborhood.

Advocating for community self-determination

NeighborWorks America champions resident leadership and promotes community self-determination, helping to create change by strengthening relationships among neighbors and building the leadership skills of residents.  

“NeighborWorks keeps us in spaces where we can keep identifying pockets of power,” says Katsi Lozada Miranda, NKCDC’s Community Engagement Director.  

NeighborWorks provides us the technical assistance to work with block captains, support block projects, and building leadership that already exists in the neighborhood so that residents can actualize their visions for the neighborhood.  

In addition to having a governing board entirely comprised of residents from our service area, last week NKCDC announced our new Neighborhood Advisory Subcommittee (NAS): a group of neighbors who come together to share their priorities for the neighborhood and keep NKCDC aligned with the community’s vision for Kensington. This week, our community engagement team met with a group of block captains to identify their hopes and needs for their blocks, keeping us connected to leaders in the neighborhood.  

Following the blueprint of Dorothy Richardson’s leadership, we believe solutions for the long-term happen when residents are active co-creators in the future of their neighborhoods. NeighborWorks provides us the steady support to continue centering resident voice as NKCDC stays engaged in a larger planning process in Kensington to push forward comprehensive, community-driven, and trauma-informed strategies for neighborhood transformation.

NKCDC placed Stop Home Scams ads on El trains and stations in 2021.

NeighborWorks builds the skills, supplements the funding and amplifies the reach of organizations like NKCDC so we can do more together. 

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