Sunday, July 25, 2021

New Yet Familiar

The other day I stumbled upon the Twitter acount of the Columbia Housing Center. It’s fairly new. Something about the name rang a bell. I found a Facebook account.  I noodled around on their website, which is still a bit glitchy to navigate.

From the website:

The goal of the Columbia Housing Center is to sustain Columbia’s residential integration so that all of Columbia is attractive and welcoming to all ethnic and racial groups.

As a rental housing locator service, the Columbia Housing Center will help landlords find tenants and tenants find homes. It will also provide training and educational programming.

You can go to their FAQ page to learn more about how this will work. I was interested in the information about this particular model has been used successfully in Oak Park, Illinois.

This spring they hired their first Executive Director, Andy Masters. He comes to the Columbia Housing Center from Enterprise Community Partners, where he was the Strategic Partnerships Manager. You may recall that Enterprise was co-founded by Columbia’s own Jim Rouse.  I look a look at their Board of Directors and noticed some familiar faces. The more I read the more I was convinced that I had heard about this initiative before.

Yes. There it is:

The last time [Jane Dembner and I] spoke was at an event held on the Chrysalis stage. She was telling me about a venture she was involved in to actively promote and support racial integration in Columbia. 

In reading her obituary I noticed a request that, in lieu of flowers, people make donations to the Columbia Housing Center.  Here is their mission:

We aim to honor James Rouse’s legacy by enhancing racial integration so that all of Columbia is attractive and welcoming to all ethnic, racial and religious groups. The Columbia Housing Center will provide a one-stop locator service that helps landlords find tenants and tenants find homes that further racial integration in and around Columbia.

(“Challenges Accepted: Jane Dembner”, Village Green/Town², June 12, 2019)

I’m excited to follow the work of the Columbia Housing Center as they begin their work. To learn more you can check out their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.  

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