Friday, August 9, 2013

Keeping Safe in a Friendly Place

When we first envisioned what kind of community Pacific Gardens would be, we wanted it to be open, welcoming and inclusive.

Many of us were condo refugees, wanting to escape the gated community mentality of developments where security was more important than neighbourliness.

So when we moved into Pacific Gardens, we expected to be able to sit back and relax in our new, comfortable environment. Keeping our home safe and secure would be no problem.

Alas, our ideals have come up against the realities of modern-day life, and it's been a struggle for us to come to terms with our need to keep safe while still being a friendly place.

There have been two incidents in recent months that brought this home to us.  The first involved someone we all liked and trusted, who took advantage of our openness to take what didn't belong to him.

The second was a more simple but equally fraught example.  A person showed up on our property looking for another resident, but unbeknownst to us, was a stalker.

We dealt with these in two ways.  First, we held two community circles to help us process our feelings about the betrayal of our trust by the resident who had been our friend, but stole from us.

Second, we initiated new security procedures and reinforced ones we already had, such as not letting in someone you don't know and not leaving outside doors propped open.

We also changed locks and security codes, put up notices asking that doors not be left open, and asked that people clear it with residents before letting in uninvited guests.

So how are we any different from other condos then, if this is what we have to do?  Well, plenty.  For starters, everyone was kept informed, so the rumour-mill didn't go into over-drive.

Second, we had an opportunity to talk about how we felt, and work through our feelings of fear, anger and hurt, which went a long way towards healing the community.

And finally, we took practical steps to remedy the problem, with input from the relevant committees and the community.

And that's the difference with cohousing communities. It's not that bad things don't happen here - they do.

But we come together as a community to deal with them, and that makes us all stronger - and safer.


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