by Jessica Lajoie.
Welcome. It’s a simple word that we use every day, but what does it mean to live in a community that is welcoming? Or to feel welcome in a given space or place? Obviously, this answer varies from person to person and is hard to describe, but most of us know it when it we see it. Or, more accurately, feel it.
I remember being new to Capitol Hill and sending an eager email to the Community Association to inquire about how to get a membership and become involved. My email went unanswered and I felt ignored. Not long after, I met one of my neighbours while our children played at the park. We both wanted to be more engaged with the CA but didn’t feel our presence was welcome. With some effort and help we eventually worked our way onto the board, however, that first impression always stayed with me. What community organization doesn’t embrace new volunteers?
My hope is that anyone reaching out to the CHCA today (or even just reading our website!) will have a very different experience. Not only will you be acknowledged, but you will find people who are welcoming of the ideas and energy you want to share. Being open to meeting new people and supporting new events are two ways our community association radiates “WELCOME!” There are also some tangible areas everyone can influence to make our neighbourhood more welcoming:
Accessibility: A couple years ago we undertook substantial renovations to the community centre, including improving access for people with mobility aids. There are still further improvements needed, but we are aware and working towards solutions. We can all do our part by keeping the sidewalks in front of our home and businesses clear of snow and ice.
Inclusion: Capitol Hill is home for many diverse people with different needs and ability to access housing. Working with both public and private developers to create a variety of housing options means that we can welcome more people into our neighbourhood. Our neighbourhood has many wonderful amenities to share and more people can support more services, benefiting everyone.
Public Spaces: Walking through our neighbourhood can provide examples of both welcoming and hostile public spaces. The mature trees everywhere are one of my favourite things about living in an older, established neighbourhood. However I find the sound walls along 14th street to be necessary, yet wholly uninspiring, pieces of infrastructure. Nothing changes overnight, but as a community we can project a clear vision of how we want to shape our public spaces and make improvements when opportunities arise.
Moving Around: It is vital for the residents and visitors of Capitol Hill to feel safe in order to feel welcome. The Community Association can be a hub and a conduit for voicing concerns and delivering messages about safety, in particular related to traffic. Whether travelling by foot, wheelchair, scooter, bus, bike, car or truck, we all have a role to play in navigating our neighbourhood safely and ensuring everyone feels welcome to use their chosen mode of transit.
The CHCA vision for Capitol Hill is to be “a connected, walkable place that is safe and welcoming.” I look forward to seeing the community grow towards this future and meeting many new friends along the way. If you are interested in volunteering in any capacity with the community association, please reach out! And remember to show your support by buying and maintaining your membership!