It’s All About Trust

By Chris Krehmeyer, President and CEO, Beyond Housing

Recently there was an article in St. Louis Magazine featuring the City of Pine Lawn – The narrative was all too familiar and described the city through the lens of the past, prior fumbles or the misgiving of opportunities.

From my perspective, the writer missed an opportunity to share another, more compelling story. A story of change, hope and of people who care deeply about their community. A story of hard working people who do everything they can to overcome their daily challenges.

For those of us working in the community, we understand these challenges all too well. Helping a community become a better place to live is no easy task. If you are not familiar with what’s
going on in Pine Lawn, you may be drawn to what you see on the outside – perhaps the current state of housing, or the school district’s accreditation status or the occasional story in the paper about a community leader.

But there’s so much more to this story.

Forty-one new homes are being built, along with parks, amenities, and a redevelopment plan focused on major revitalization of the neighborhood’s most active commercial area. Countless non-profit organizations are working together to provide information and resources that have never been available to the community before. And, an entirely new city council has come together to change the direction of this community.

Even with everything exciting that is taking place today, there are people who doubt our progress and what we are trying to accomplish. Many say it can’t be done. Many more do not trust us in part, because of the actions in the past.

And while I have deep concerns regarding the narrative associated with the article, it reminded me of the most important and foundational piece of our work, trust. Charles Feltman describes trust as “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions”. We are honored that our community allows itself to be vulnerable to our work by allowing us to positively impact their values: family, belonging, community and independence.

Yet the St. Louis Magazine article featured a small number of Pine Lawn residents who articulated a lack of trust in our work and by de facto, us.

Now I recognize that not everyone in the 24:1 footprint knows who Beyond Housing is, let alone trusts us. This piece however, is a great reminder that a trusting relationship is always a work in progress. If we stop working at it, it will deteriorate. Even worse, it can be lost amidst narratives like these that further exasperate the challenges we face in our everyday work. That said, we remain committed to our community and our work.

To paraphrase author Brene’ Brown, we will remain true to our mission and vision by demonstrating the following attributes:

  1. Boundaries – we respect our community’s boundaries, and when we are not clear about what’s okay and what’s not okay, we ask. We’re willing to say no.
  2. Reliability – we do what we say we’ll do. This means staying aware of our competencies and limitations, so we don’t over promise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities.
  3. Accountability – we own our mistakes, apologize and make amends.
  4. Vault – we don’t share information or experiences that are not ours to share. Our community needs to know that our confidences are kept, and that we’re not sharing any information about other people that should be confidential.
  5.  Integrity – we choose courage over comfort. We choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And we choose to practice our values rather than simply professing them.
  6. Nonjudgement – our community can ask for what they need, and we can ask for what we need. We can talk about how we feel without judgement.
  7.  Generosity – we extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.

Like any successful relationship we must work at it day in and day out. We can never assume things are “good” within the community just because we are in the place they call home. The seven attributes above will always be the conscious choices that we make as an organization.

It would be far too easy to chalk this conversation up to the “haters” or “disbelievers” and ignore what we heard. Instead, we remain committed to building trust with members of the community who may not know who we are or understand what we are trying to accomplish.This has always been and will always be our goal within the 24:1 community.

Chris Explainer

Chris Krehmeyer I’ve been working in community development in the St. Louis area for 25 years, and I’ve been the CEO of Beyond Housing since 1993. While I’m proud of our accomplishments, I don’t claim to be an expert. At Beyond Housing, the experts we listen to are the voices of the community members we serve. I’ll be raising issues here that I believe matter to our community. I hope you’ll join the conversation. We do reserve the right not to post comments containing offensive language. To paraphrase Dr. King, we can disagree without being disagreeable.

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