Jul 302013

By: Ginny Hanusik

Hudson River Housing serves as Poughkeepsie’s primary organization for providing shelter for the homeless as well as affordable, quality housing for first-time homeowners. Founded in 1982, the non-profit has grown over the past 30 years to encompass a wide range of resources that City of Poughkeepsie residents may benefit from.

In June I began working as HRH’a Development Intern alongside two Vassar students. As the summer has progressed, I have seen my capacity to lead and communicate effectively progress as well. The umbrella of responsibility that Hudson River Housing holds is vast and as a representative of a well-known agency in the city, I have learned quickly that how you act and speak outside of the office matters.

Working closely under the Director of Organizational Development, Elizabeth Celaya, I have obtained the opportunity to experience first-hand what it means and what resources are required to revitalize a neighborhood and community. Applying the knowledge I’ve acquired over the past few years of studying gentrification, post-industrial planning, and urban renewal, I have been able to gain a more enlightened perspective of why such problems exist, how they are perpetuated, and what efforts are being made to improve the health and vitality of cities like Poughkeepsie.

Most of the organization’s efforts have focused on the Middle Main Street district which includes some of the city’s most impoverished residents and neglected infrastructure. Conducting residential surveys that seek to enhance overall living conditions has occupied a large amount of time in which I have been able to interact with fellow citizens of a city that I call home. The results of these surveys provided expected answers like “crime” to questions such as, “What would you say is the most pressing issue in your neighborhood presently?” However, some unexpected answers to overall happiness level have caught me off guard and have forced me to reconsider how I perceive difference. In a neighborhood that I’ve judged as dangerous since I was small, making the headlines of the Poughkeepsie Journal with drug crime and the occasion robbery, I spoke to residents who have lived their for decades, insisting that they wouldn’t move if they were given a million dollars because this is their home. My concept of what makes a community and what constitutes a home has evolved over the past few weeks and I anticipate a continued evolution as more difference is encountered.

The ability to acknowledge, reflect, and improve one’s quality of life through housing is what I am ultimately learning through daily analysis of the built environment in Poughkeepsie. I believe that it is extremely important for residents of the Hudson Valley, Bard students especially, to spend time in this once vibrant city to understand its decline and the efforts that are taking place to bring it back to life.

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