Social connections matter all through the year

By Perry Lofquist
Guest Columnist

What makes a community thrive? The answer is simple. Social connectedness.

What is social connectedness? It’s the opportunity to build positive relationships with others and foster a sense of community. Out of these relationships, amazing things can happen.fo12OPlofquistcolumn

We can all think of communities we are a part of – our neighborhoods, workplaces and houses of worship. Being a part of a community means something. It means you belong. You have value. Not because of who you are or what you did, but because you simply belong.

Social connections are also powerful when it comes to health. According to the Stanford Center for Research and Disease Prevention, a sense of belonging is a basic human need – as basic as food and shelter. It has even been shown to combat isolation, ward off depression and increase life expectancy.

Many low-income families living in affordable housing experience frequent moves. This constantly places them in new, unfamiliar rental communities resulting in families detaching themselves from others out of fear of their new surroundings.

As the onsite social service provider at five affordable housing communities in the metro area, social connectedness is central to what we do.  Established in 1998, Opportunity Neighborhood promotes safe and supportive housing by providing family support services onsite at affordable housing communities. Our primary goals for each community are to increase community safety, increase housing stability and increase opportunities for family success. We accomplish these goals by working with residents to identify programs that meet their community’s needs.  Programs are then developed through partnerships with local schools, law enforcement and community organizations.

We strive to provide opportunities for families and children to build social connectedness with fellow residents through community building events – National Night Out, early childhood programs and community dinners.

The social connections that are built at these events create a ripple effect throughout the community – decreasing crime, stabilizing families and connecting families to community resources.

Particularly during the holiday season, social connectedness increases in importance. We attend holiday parties, send holiday cards to distant family and friends, bake holiday goodies for neighbors and give to those in need. It’s the building and maintaining of social connections that brings us joy.

This season, remember the importance of social connections. Not only amongst your immediate family and friends, but to those who may be experiencing the shadow of isolation like families and children living in affordable housing communities here in the metro.

To help us create opportunities for social connectedness among low-income families and children, please visit our donation page at http://tinyurl.com/nene4bd.

To learn more about what Opportunity Neighborhood, visit our website at www.opportunityneighborhood.org.

Perry Lofquist is the executive director of Opportunity Neighborhood, which provides a variety of onsite programs and family support services at rental housing communities in the Twin Cities.