I am sitting at my desk in the Bridging Neighborhoods office eating some delicious blueberries. They are warm from being out in the sun which makes them taste like pie! During lunch, my coworker Evan took me to the CHASS farmers market, which happens weekly on Thursdays. CHASS is a health and social services center that provides wrap around services to the Southwest Detroit community. Being a health center, in addition to tents selling food and handmade clothing, there were also several tents with health-related resources. They had information about different health care services, samples of food and healthy recipes, and hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes. In the back of the building there was free covid testing happening. One stand was distributing flyers about free breast cancer screenings happening at CHASS. Evan decided to bring some of the flyers back to the Bridging Neighborhoods office so that participants in our housing program could take a look at them.
One negative of government services can be that resources are not centralized, so people have to go searching for different grants and programs that might be helpful them and navigate a complicated bureaucracy, all of which requires time and often, internet access. Through getting a glimpse into the wrap-around services I’ve been noticing at Bridging Neighborhoods and now at CHASS, their approach seems to be the best way to meet people’s needs. By being located directly within the community they serve and working to be a one-stop-shop for housing and health needs, respectively, they make it easier for people to fit their programs into their lives and responsibilities.
Thinking about this has reminded me of how in my university coursework, I am often bothered by academia’s tendency to label writing or studies that are difficult to understand and interpret as better. If things aren’t understandable to the entire intended audience, that is a failure. Inaccessibility does not mean that something is innately better. The opposite is true. Anyways, that is just a tangentially related side note but it feels a little applicable to what I am seeing here.
After going to the CHASS farmer’s market and seeing one of Evan’s friends and former coworkers, we went to one of the SDEV gardens (shoutout Aminata!!) where Evan used to work. The garden was huge and so beautiful. I was struck by how muy crossover there is in the people who’ve worked at CHASS, SDEV, and Bridging Neighborhoods. There is such a powerful network of community-led organizations in Southwest that are made up of such awesome, caring people who are contributing to thriving, healthy neighborhoods. It’s so cool to see some of those connections in action. I am not going to forget the beauty and people-power of Southwest Detroit.