Jump to Navigation

Apartments Are Communities

 

 

 

 

The Apartments Are Communities project civically engages lower-income apartment dwellers to improve their community and apartment complex. Because of our effective community organizing in Alief, the City of Houston reached out to us in 2009 to partner on a pilot project for Apartments Are Communities at the Mint Apartment Complex (now Falls at Bellaire Apartment Complex), where a thousand lower-income people reside. The project has proven highly successful, and is considered a model project by the City of Houston’s mayor and the head of its Health and Human Services Department. It is also lauded by area management districts and apartment owners.

The Falls at Bellaire Apartment complex (previously Mai and The Mint Apartment complex) has seen measurable decreases in crime (20%), improved renter retention (20%), and increased resident civic participation (voting in 2010 increased 112%). Examples of changes at the complex include: 1) a Resource Center established and run by residents with after school programs, tutoring, a computer lab connected to the school district’s curriculum, and numerous resident-led clubs, from Boy Scouts to choir club to women’s empowerment; 2) over 300 volunteers participating in planning and building a large community playground and garden; 3) the Alief Youth Summit hosted at the complex, attended by 180 teenagers who focused on addressing their school and community concerns (2/12); and 4) 300 people from Alief attending Save Texas School Rallies at the Capitol.

 

 

About Apartments Are Communities

Apartments are Communities is an award-winning program to civically engage lower-income apartment dwellers. Texans Together works with apartment residents to give them the civic and advocacy skills to improve their apartment and greater communities. Engaged residents lead their communities to reduce residential transience, diminish crime, build community trust and increase voting.
 

The Falls at Bellaire, formerly  Mai and The Mint  The Linda Vista Apartments
 
 

Where We Began

In early 2009, the City of Houston approached Texans Together to form a collaborative pilot project to improve apartment communities in Alief through civic engagement. Residents were concerned about crime, a shortage of youth activities, unemployment, a lack of job skills training, and poor community services. Their overall consensus was that Alief was a woefully underserved area, forgotten by local officials. Based on their concerns, Texans Together began organizing the residents to change their community and lives.  A key first step in this process was to get residents to see their neighborhood as not just another apartment complex for temporary residence, but as their community to improve.
 

Residents Hosting Family-Friendly, Community Building Events

 

Engaging the Community

We believe that to truly understand a community, you must spend a lot of time in that community. Over the past four years, we not only have built strong relationships with apartment residents and the greater Alief community, but we have helped the apartment residents to build strong partnerships, such as with management districts, the YMCA, Houston Food Bank, faith-based organizations as well as local political leadership. 
 
The Falls at Bellaire Apartments (formerly known as Mai and the Mint Apartments) were selected as the site for the Alief pilot project due to its residents' ethnic diversity, large at-risk student population, and reported exposure to drug and gang influences. Its thousand modest to lower-income residents are 60% African-American and 40% Latino. It is located in a typical lower-income, multi-cultural, historically disenfranchised neighborhood. When the project began,  Mai's residents were cynical, distrustful, and uninvolved in the community. Residents first established an Apartment Resource Center with computer labs, a children’s library, workshops, social clubs, events, and community organizing projects. As residents became engaged in improving their communities, crime and EMS calls declined and student achievement improved.
 
With the support and assistance of the residents of the Falls of Bellaire, a massive community outreach was mounted.  The group networked and helped form a coalition that lobbied, planned, and collected petitions for a desperately needed community space.  After 7 years of meeting with various City of Houston officials from Parks and Recreation, Planning, City Council Representatives, and even the Mayor's office, they were successful. On April 1, 2015, it was announced that the first ever Multiservice Center outside of the Beltway with more than three City Departments would be built in Alief.  The new space will have green space, trails, basketball courts, tennis courts, meeting spaces and an activity center.  The project was initially was budgeted at 20 million dollars, but with the community pushing and telling exactly what they needed, the project is now a $60 million project. 
 
In March 2013, we began our second Apartments Are Communities Project at the Linda Vista Apartments in Northwest Houston. Linda Vista's residents have taken to civic engagement, working together for improving their community with a Resource Center, workshops, access to services, Medicaid Expansion advocacy, social clubs, events, and community organizing projects. Apartment communities thrive when residents work together to improve their lives and greater community. 
 

Resident-Organized Food Fair in Action TTEF's Frank Garcia with Apartments Are Communities'  Volunteers

In the summer of 2015, the Falls of Bellaire were rewarded a grant from CASE (Center for Afterschool, Summer and Expanded Learning,) an intermediary for afterschool activities formed by Harris County Department of Education in 1999.  The Resource Center hosted a summer teen job program where older kids worked in the center as monitors, assisted other residents with Center activities like computer labs, handed out lunches,  and helped with field trips for the youngest enjoying the center.  There was a Teen Empower Houston Leaders  (EHL) class where they learned the tools and power of direct action organizing, and focused on the needs of the community.  Their planned project was a back to school drive.  There were arts and crafts sessions to make holiday decorations and gifts like Father Day "World Bestest Dad" mugs.  There were also field trips like a trip to the Museum of Natural Science where after eating lunch at the center, the older teens partnered with the younger girls and boys on the trip.  They toured the Buffalo Soldier Museum, the Jurassic exhibits, and viewed the remnants of prehistoric plants and animals and their descendants.  It was a hands on tour, from the smiles and interest, everyone had a great time.  Somehow, they ended up in a shark cage. We're not sure how, but they weren't telling. The trip was a big hit and we were happy to be a part of it.

Falls of Bellaire Learning Trip at Museum of Natural Science
Ready to be a part of Shark Week... Sharks Beware!

Recent Community Achievements 

With the support of Texans Together, apartment residents have learned the civic skills needed for community change, improving their day-to-day lives and strengthening community bonds in the process. Once residents have developed the necessary skills, we take a backseat and allow the community leaders to take charge.

Notable highlights include:

• Residents organized to get the City of Houston to authorize the new Alief Multi-Purpose Service Center, an estimated $60 million dollar investment
 
• Residents secured $300,000 in funding from the City of Houston for major improvements to Alief’s Hennington Library, which was used by more than 800,000 people in 2013
 
• Residents petitioned the City and later achieved a road closure between Dairy Ashford and Bellaire streets, which is a major security and youth safety improvement
 
• Residents have addressed crime by organizing Neighborhood Watch groups, getting the property gated, and gaining cameras and lights for additional security
 
• Residents have become involved with the local Super Neighborhood Council,  City Council and other governmental bodies, ensuring they had a voice with regard to community affairs
 
• Residents have organized regular family-friendly community events to get to know each other better
 
• Residents have partnered with Parent Centers at nearby Alief  elementary schools to improve student achievements
 
• Residents have coordinated and organized food fairs, health screenings and similar events to provide residents with access to important services
 
• Residents have organized voter registration and non-partisan voter turnout efforts
 
• Residents initiated, planned, and built a large community playground and gardens with the national nonprofit Kaboom! and 300 area volunteers
 
• Residents hosted an educational forum in Alief with other groups on the impact of state education budget cuts as well as a combined non-partisan school board and city council forum
 
• One hundred and eighty teens and young adults hosted an Alief Young Leaders Summit, from which they have worked to build a community playground and to improve are after-school programs and youth services
 
• Residents have performed community outreach and joined with other community groups to get a $60 million Multiservice Center built.  The project is the first ever outside of the Sam Houston Beltway and with more than 3 City Departments.  
 
• Summer of 2015, Falls of Bellaire Resource Center received a grant from Case (Center for Afterschool, Summer and Expanded Learning) for a summer program out of the Resource Center where Residents help provide field trips, EHL (Empower Houston Leaders) class, computer labs, and daily activities like arts and crafts
 
• Summer of 2016, Falls of Bellaire Resource Center received another grant from Case (Center for Afterschool, Summer and Expanded Learning) for their summer program out of the Resource Center.  There were new field trips, increased parent participation with volunteering in the center to teach and chaperone the field trips. 
 
• Fall of 2016, Falls of Bellaire Resource Center held a National Night Out. Working with community partner, International Management District,  neighbors gathered for a block party outside the resource center.  The gathering allowed residents to meet each other and build a sense of community and neighborhood engagement.
 
• Spring of 2016, Falls of Bellaire Resource Center partnered with CASE (Center for Afterschool, Summer, and Expanded Learning) and the Brazilian Arts Foundation to provide a six week course of Capoeira Luanda to kids at the Resource Center.
 

 

To learn more about Apartments are Communities or if you are interested in turning your

apartment complex into a community, contact us at 713-782-TTEF (8833) or by email at

 



Contact Us

Texans Together Education Fund

P.O. Box 1296
Houston, Texas 77251-1296

713-782-8833

--

User login

Main menu 2

Page | by Dr. Radut