Four years ago I moved into Islington to work at Urban Hope. In that time, I’ve never lived more than 10 minutes from Urban Hope HQ. I’ve been thinking about what that has meant for me.
At the heart of Urban Hope there is a desire to create a community of belonging. Living and working here has enabled that, though it’s not always easy. For example it’s a bit of a weird feeling ,when every time you leave your house you might bump in to young people you see at work.
I’ve bumped into volunteers on the way to the doctors, had significant chats with young people at the shops and had awkward conversations with parents at the pub!
It’s not always comfortable and can sometimes feel intrusive. But it also means that you can sort out an issue at school with a quick conversation, get updated on a challenging situation while picking up your milk or strengthen a relationship over a discovered mutual love of sausage rolls!
For me it has meant that I’ve felt connected, that being part of the community has been a natural occurrence. That I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of people’s lives and they get to be part of mine, and that feels right.
I’ve also found that living down the road from the families I work with means that the stuff that affects them really, really matters to me too. From the prevalence of phone snatching on Essex road, to the amount of dog poo outside the school- when people talk about the things in this community that matter to them, I more than empathise, I experience.
It means that when I speak to the safer neighbourhood team or the young people who are tired of the state of the park, I don’t do it from a distance, I do it as a resident and that not only makes me more motivated, but also I think adds gravity to my voice when I speak to those in power.
Living here has meant that I saw young people mourn for a friend from my kitchen window, and could call a parent when I saw their son in an ambulance. It has meant that I have been able to give myself fully to my work and that my work has given me a home and a group of people who I belong to.