I’m presenting at the “Heart of Community” online conference about the dynamics of introverts and extroverts. Here is a link to the Introverts Unite presentation.
I quit going to the grocery store, mostly because it was so depressing to see all the customers there grabbing whatever was remaining on the shelves, as if the last can of Campbell’s soup will be their last meal.
I live in a cohousing community. In the pre-COVID-19 world, if someone is homebound, neighbors step forward and provide a coordinated care giving response.
That would include picking up groceries or medicine from the store, providing prepared meals, and stopping by to say “hello.”
With COVID-19 self-isolation, those tenets of community have pretty much ground to a halt. There are occasional meetings on web streaming services like Zoom, but the personal connections are nil.
There are some community members who view themselves as more bullet proof than others and are gadding about, much to the dismay of others who are much more vigilant and take the self-isolation mandates issued by the city of Boulder, Boulder County, and state of Colorado much more seriously.
There are exceptions from the mandate. Going to the food store is viewed as “essential.” I’ll be suggesting that all my fellow community members come up with a list of ingredients for their “last meals” and have the more cavalier neighbors go on food and beer runs over the next few weeks or months.
What’s your “last meal” – you know the one you’d scarf down if you’re on death row and your fateful number finally pops up.
These days, as my personal movements are constrained by the local and statewide COVID-19 “stay at home” mandates, I have accumulated the fixings for my last meals, just in case.
Around the time time I was recovering from my death-defying illness back in 2014, King Soopers started home delivery. I resurrected my account and have food delivered to the house now, which is handy.
Over recent years, I’ve been in and out of some harrowing situations and think about my last meal.
One weather-related risk I, as well as most anyone who’s lived in Wyoming have experienced, is winter driving. While I no longer live in Wyoming, I spend quite a lot of time on the road traveling around mostly to other towns in Wyoming, and haven’t had any death-defying driving experiences nor any really close calls other than a couple 360 degree black ice spins and sliding off the highway after winter weather closed the road behind me.
On March 9, 2019, after attending the inaugural Boulder International Film Festival in Fort Collins, I took off for an uneventful Saturday drive through Fort Collins and north toward Wyoming for a community-building workshop presented by my friend and colleague Yana Ludwig at the Solidarity House Cooperative community in Laramie.
Before deciding to drive up to Fort Collins for the film festival, there was snow in southeast Wyoming. I was undecided if I wanted to make the trip, in the first place, but figured if I got on the road fairly early in the morning, there would be plenty of daylight if I had to turn back.
Do Mother and Father Nature plan for weather to drastically change at the Colorado / Wyoming state line?
The the trek suddenly became very eventful at Virginia Dale.
Early-morning sunlight glistened off 30 miles of the black ice encrusting the highway. Blowing and drifting snow buffed the icy road surface to an opalescent sheen from the state line to Laramie.
I didn’t eat anything before I left thinking I would get something along the way. Based on these road conditions, that may not happen. “What if my ‘last meal’ was nothing,” I thought to myself as I passed jack-knifed trailers and cars stuck on the sides of the road. Some nutty driver in a pickup going way too fast was fish-tailing his way up my tail pipe, before he slid off the road behind me.
That in turn, reminded me about a drive I made from Riverton to Laramie in November 2015.
I was on the Wind River Indian Reservation documenting a traditional bison ceremony, which was a big success. This was my third trip to the Wind River Indian Reservation in three weeks. It takes a while to come to consensus.It was a successful hunt and traditional ceremony. I was anxious to get back on the road, but didn’t think to check the road reports.
When I hit the road, it was a typical November fall day in 2015 when I was driving back from Riverton. The weather was pleasant with the skies a little overcast and the outside conditions requiring a light jacket.
As is my routine I made a stop in Rawlins for a gas and a pit stop. The clerk informed me that I-80 east and west were both closed due to snow and blowing snow.
It’s calm, sunny and warm in Rawlins. The options were to turn around and return to Riverton or backtrack and go way out the way to Casper and Interstate 25, which would likely be worse. I stuck it out in Rawlins.
It was early and I decided to get a room before the truck traffic started to back up.
I didn’t want to give an arm and a leg for a nuisance stay-over and took a room at the Econo-Lodge.
Even as Econo-Lodges go, this one was stark. It’s nestled up against the north side of a bluff where it didn’t get much afternoon sun.
Might as well make the best of it.
I cruised around downtown Rawlins. The streetscape has drastically improved over the years. Before Rawlins created its Downtown Development Authority in 1991, it was a declining business district. The year I drove through, Rawlins was awarded the coveted Great American Main Street Award.
I prefer local joints to the chain restaurants and tried a chili relleno at a small Mexican place called Rose’s Lariat. The meal was pretty good especially when I could wash it down with Topo Chico fizzy water, which is my go-to agua mineral when I’m in Mexico.
I made my way back to the room, if that’s what you want to call it. The Econo-Lodge was more of an Econo-Fridge. The heater hadn’t been on for quite some time. I flicked it on. The heater parts banged and clicked and finally started began to whir and spit out heated air.
While the room warmed up, I’d always wanted to take a look at the “Frontier Prison.” It was the old state penitentiary that was abandoned in 1981, but now a tourist attraction. As a kid one of the parental threats when I was scolded was, “You don’t want to end up in Rawlins making license plates, do you?” The prison made money from inmates stamping out car tags.
I pulled up to the now historic sandstone block building. By this time, it was snowing again and the attraction was closed, probably because of limited “winter hours.” It was getting late in the afternoon and I headed back to the room for good.
Closed roads are a growth industry in Wyoming.
The Department of Transportation closes the interstate because there are no more parking spaces along the route to accommodate any more trucks, let alone passenger cars. All the cities lining the road sell out motel rooms from Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins, Wamsutter, Green River, Rock Springs to Evanston.
Pizza Hut advertises on the plastic room keys. Bored, I decided to order my “go to” Canadian bacon and mushroom thin crust with extra cheese. I was able to eat half of it.
Rawlins has pretty good cable. There’s not much to do here on a school night in the dead of a snow storm.
I dozed off with the TV on and at 2am, the “REEEEE REEEEE REEEEE!” screeched out on the TV speaker. The roads were open. I would still wait to get out around 10am when the sun is higher.
After waking up, I gobbled the rest of the cold pizza and downed a warmed over cup of yesterday’s coffee before getting on the road.
It was a bumper-to-bumper parking lot from Wolcott Junction to Laramie. Traffic was stopped by an accident on the westbound lane. It took three hours to go 90 miles.
Wyoming winter driving takes practice – more like baptism by fire. If you can successfully drive in Wyoming during any small snowstorm, you can drive anywhere.
Riverton, like most other Wyoming communities, is centrally isolated from just about every place else when the weather gets nasty.
There aren’t any places to stop. In the event of road closures, there are lighted barriers like at a railroad crossing that prevent traffic from passing and drivers are required to turn back.
I grew up in Cheyenne and let me tell you, if you’ve never experienced a blizzard in southeast Wyoming, it’s quite the experience. During certain times of year, it’s so windy, there’s no Final Net hair spray on any store shelf.
I always felt lucky about living in Lander and now Boulder, Colorado along the Front Range foothills.
It’s so nice to wake up, look out the window and notice that the snow has fallen into neat little piles on tops of fence posts and not rudely strewn about in seven-foot-high drifts.
I’ve met several people in my travels who have been to Wyoming. Besides having visited Yellowstone Park, the second most frequent comment is, “Oh, yeah, one winter I was stranded in Cheyenne on my way to California.”
Under most circumstances, I’m a calm and collected driver, but when the interstate suddenly disappears in a puff of white, the highway turns into the “Snow Chi Minh Trail.”
Luckily, I didn’t get stranded on the interstate this time. When that happened back in the days before cell phones and GPS, travel could get problematic. The seasoned drivers keep on plowing ahead since the weather will likely get worse before it gets better.
Back in those days, cassette tapes played music mixes through the stereo that soothed me while my car pounded through invisible snowdrifts and crept around 18-wheeler convoys near Elk Mountain.
This time, the roads were open but barely navigable. Espying disgruntled travelers examining their jack-knifed u-Haul trailer and contorted semi-truck silhouettes in the highway median made me realize how out of control these drives can be.
I couldn’t imagine being killed by a wild and crazy trucker or freezing to death knowing my last meal was cold pizza and day-old coffee.
My romanticism has me eating bacon, eggs over easy with a pancake for my last breakfast at the Luxury Diner in Cheyenne; Japanese-style pork noodles from the 20th Street Café in Denver as my last lunch; and a good steak from just about anywhere for my last dinner.
Black ice covered the roads right into Laramie. It was a relief to negotiate slushy roads in town.
By the time my meeting was over around 4pm, the sun had warmed the pavement and dissipated the ice.
Just another winter drive in Wyoming.
I pulled into the parking lot at Vern’s Place in LaPorte for a well-deserved prime rib dinner, hopefully, it won’t be my last.
Unless my neighbor agrees to pick up my COVID-19 King Soopers run, the order includes, bacon and eggs; I have T-Bone steaks in the freezer, and always a healthy supply of Japanese udon noodles. If I catch the COVID-19, I hope my reaction doesn’t include loss of smell and taste.
Being self-isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic is a throwback to my childhood. In the cohousing community we’ve agreed upon how to support one another in the event of illness, lack of food, and when cleaning supplies are short.
The Cohousing Association of the US is sponsoring a series of webchats providing a way for communities to share their “secret sauces” about preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The community common house, and that of the cohousing community across the street would be good large-scale places for others in the neighborhood to shelter in place, if need be. More likely in the event of a bad storm.
As a course of our day-to-day cohousing lives, the community keeps stores of paper towels, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies on hand. When this coronavirus thing blows over, we’ll refine our civil defense protocol.
The mutual support that’s come about today is a lot like how things were back during the Cold War. My family and extended family were tight-knit enough to hunker down together while preparing for the impending nuclear holocaust.
We were the only household in the neighborhood to build a “fallout” shelter. In the 1964 Barry Goldwater favored the use atomic warfare to end the Vietnam war. I’m pretty sure my dad voted for Goldwater, which may be one reason behind our family civil defense project.
Similarly, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a high degree of international and national tension. but soon friends and foes worked together to slow the viral spread.
As for COVID-19, it’s pretty easy to build consensus around stomping out a bad virus, since there are no people involved, and, for example, no disagreements around having to determine who are the good nazis compared to the bad nazis.
Baby Boomers and older likely remember October 1963 when Russia installed nuclear missiles in Cuba in response, in part to the botched Bay of Pigs invasion to take back Cuba from Fidel Castro. There was a political stand off between President John Kennedy and Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev. Lots happened after that, JFK was assassinated, some conspiracy theorists think that was somehow connected to the Bay of Pigs, and the missiles of October.
While I was growing up, Cheyenne had the highest concentration of nuclear missiles in the country. Francis E. Warren Air Force Base was the command center for the Atlas missile program following World War II. The Department of Defense figured out that a better way to deploy nuclear weapons was to install lighter weight nuclear warheads on rockets. Missile installation was a booming industry in middle-of-nowhere places like southeast Wyoming.
Not that we were any safer, but my parents decided to build a bomb shelter in the basement of our home in the Cole Addition, one of the suburbs on the east side of Cheyenne. Suburban growth was a result of the missile boom.
I imagine the bomb shelter was for peace of mind more than anything.
One of the guys who worked for my dad at the Coke plant was Bill Fisher. He was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War and lived in the basement of a house that was started but not built. Part of the foundation was completed, but there were dirt tunnels where he kept stuff. I was never quite sure what to make of Bill living underground in a series of tunnels.
He was a hermit, maybe that was PTSD-related, but very smart about science. He worked around the plant sorting bottles, helped on the production line, but his main job was working on the vending machine refrigeration systems.
His place was located across the street from the Coke plant. When I went to work with my dad on Saturdays, I goofed around inside the plant, but eventually made my way over to Bill’s.
He subscribed to “Things of Science” which was an educational program launched by the nonprofit news syndicate Science Service in November 1940. The program consisted of a series of kits available by subscription and sent by mail monthly.
They were packed in a small blue cardboard box about the size of a portable hard drive with a yellow address label. Included inside was a simple science project. I remember one being a crystal radio set, and another was a small motor run on electromagnetic current – battery not included.
Bill had the little boxes categorized by year and stacked up on a ledge in a niche carved into the dirt wall of his of literal “man cave.”
One Christmas, he bought me a subscription – the cost was $5.00 for the year. He was a quiet guy. Since he had no family, Bill was always invited over to our place for Thanksgiving. On Christmas, we always stopped by to see him and drop off a gift and some food on our way to the grandparents’ for Christmases 2 and 3.
Anyway, Bill had done research about bomb shelters and helped build ours. Bill was also a very meticulous mason. He taught me how to mix mortar, and lay blocks, which are life skills I’ve used on occasion over the years.
Our shelter was located in the northeast corner of the basement at the bottom of the stairs, which made for easy access. There was also a window well that led to the outside. Bill welded together an air shaft from steel pipe that led from inside the shelter and vented to the outside.
There was a set of surplus bunk beds, a pantry where canned goods and water were stored, along with plates and table ware. The fallout shelter temperature was always the same and was a good place to hang out during hot summer days. There wasn’t a place to cook, but there was a Sterno camping stove that could heat up a can of soup in a small space. There was a downstairs bathroom, but in the shelter the toilet was a galvanized steel port-a-potty with a sealed cover.
The threat of nuclear attack was real, but largely theoretical. If Cheyenne was targeted, a missile that hit in Torrington, would be considered, “close enough.” The main reason for the shelter was protection from “fallout,” the residual radioactive dust spewed into the upper atmosphere following a nuclear blast and eventually fall back to earth. The amount and spread of fallout is based on the size of the weapon, the altitude at which it is detonated, and prevailing winds. Since Cheyenne is so windy, locals though any fallout would be blown to Nebraska and Colorado.
In school, we watched short Civil Defense movies and film strips about how to prepare for a nuclear attack, “Do not look at the fireball,” we were warned. There were air raid drills similar to fire drills, except we sheltered in place. One exercise was to dive under our desks and cover our heads with our hands or a pulled over garment.
We also practiced exiting the classroom and going down into the school boiler room that was manned by the custodian, Mr. Costello.
During the summer time, I liked to go to the grocery store with my mom. Not that I like shopping, I stood in the cereal aisle looking at the backs of all the Post cereal boxes that had panels of baseball cards looking for the ones that had the most New York Yankees players – particularly Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
After returning home from the store, one of my jobs was to rotate the bomb shelter canned goods out and replace them with the new stock. The cans were dated using a magic marker. I’m still a food hoarder based on those days. Rather than buying one can of Beeferoni, I get four.
My dad and I spent Saturdays making the rounds at the local war surplus , Goodwill, and Salvation Army stores looking for items that would make living in the bomb shelter with some of the creature comforts, like extra can openers, and cooking utensils. That’s a habit a learned from my dad. I don’t have one tool kit, I have five – one in the car, house, garage, and two in my office – one dedicated to the camera equipment.
One item was a manual air circulator. I don’t think that thing was ever hooked up.
After Khrushchev backed down to JFK and the nuclear weapons were removed from Cuba, tensions decreased, even though there continued to be an escalation in the arms race between the United States and Russia. While the threat of nuclear war was lessened, everyone was more aware and vigilant as a result of preparing for an unforeseen war.
At my cohousing community, early on, there were some who didn’t think the COVID-19 thing was any big deal. They attended the community dinners with hubris. There are others who have self-isolated since the beginning.
Since then the community approved a set of guidelines concerning use of the common house. Most of my neighbors have come around, don’t go out much, and observe social distancing when talking to neighbors. If the governor orders Coloradoans to stay home, our cohousing community has been observing much of how that’s being handled in California. Since we’re all over 60 here and a “vulnerable” demographic, we may get more flexibility. I saw that Safeway now offers “senior hours” from 7am to 9am on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Today, we’re celebrating one neighbor’s 80th birthday outdoors in the courtyard. Hopefully, the prevailing winds will keep any airborne COVID-19 away from the party. Even if they don’t, I have peace of mind knowing that there is a stash of toilet paper in the common house basement.
I’ll be at the birthday party in spirit.
What are the general steps to building the Boulder Co-living community? There will be people who get involved with various levels of interest ranging from the “Burning soul” advocates to the passively interested who sit back and watch how the project comes together. Nonetheless, there are three basic steps:
- Discuss and agree upon community values and perhaps, a higher purpose, which would fill the need to walk their community values talk while participating in service projects;
- Whether you’re 30 or 80 people, come up with a name and “elevator speech” identifying the community. Referring to yourselves as a “bunch of housemates” doesn’t tell about your community story;
- Community cohesiveness could be built around a higher purpose of community service that binds a community together.
- Once you kick the can down the road a few blocks, check your state laws about homeowner association regulations. You will find they set up HOAs that do not mirror co-living very well – lots of centralized power and control, lots of voting.
- There likely will be common expenses that relate to community activities, coordinating transportation, common meals, intra-community communication and a fee structure to pay for all or part.
- Community values and mission are implemented through the budget by teams – overall steering team equivalent to a board of directors, social events, managing building and grounds, proceed and governance, finances and legal matters,
- The entire community approves by consensus the budget or any action for that matter, and the steering team ratifies the action also by consensus.
Design and Construction
- If you’re sharing a big house, there will be design issues about designating common spaces and storage. Some design and construction in retrofits may be necessary if you’re in an existing condo community or apartment building is adapted. This may include renovating an existing dwelling unit into a common space with a guest room and common kitchen which was the case at Boulder Creek cohousing in Colorado;
- Identify resident needs, how the “site” functions – if it is in an existing physical development like a condo association, apartment complex, or households dispersed within a given boundary;
- Determine what are considered “common spaces” which may not be literally common, but function in common. These may be in private homes for shared meals and meetings, civic spaces, churches, libraries
One thing I’ve learned over the years, there’s nothing like a good old fashioned emergency to bring a community of any size together, from meeting your neighbor for the first time as a result of a power outage during a huge snowstorm to quickly spreading diseases like the coronavirus.
Cohousing communities and their residents are well equipped to deal with crisis situations, such as implementing current COVID-19 / Coronavirus prevention measures without resorting to martial law.
Internationally, nationally, and locally, hyper-vigilance will create political heroes, increase ratings on cable TV talking heads shows, sell more toilet paper – but in the long run, save lives, and bridge social and cultural divides.
We cohousers are predisposed to be hedges against isolation through collaboration, sharing of time and resources, and keeping track of one another. We’re big on meetings and getting together to make decisions about stuff.
Cohousing Association of the U.S. held a national online webchat about what other communities are doing around the country to respond to COVID-19. There is an online series that continues. Recordings will be available for those unable to participate live.
At my place, we have several neighbors self-isolating because of actual illness, having returned from travel or just being cautious. That hasn’t deterred the community from getting together.
My community has convened a series of Zoom.us online conversations and reached consensus together on a set of common sense guidelines around how to use the community common house during lockdown.
Over the past few weeks, our resident opinions were all over the spectrum from “This is a hoax” to “I’m not worried” to “Put on the haz-mat suits.”
Myself? I’m more of a “Business as usual” guy, as far as my being “freaked out” quotient goes. I’ve been catching up on pandemic-related movies and TV shows. Last night “Outbreak” with Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo was on Prime Video.
On Netflix, I’m watching a TV series called “Containment” about what happens among frustrated people during a viral outbreak in a quarantine area where there are too many “rats in a cage.” Next are the classic “Andromeda Strain” and “Contagion” with Gwyneth Paltrow. There’s a good one called “Flu” from Korea, but it’s subtitled – I’ll watch that when I can concentrate more.
But in the cohousing community, my behavior is to observe the the most important lowest common denominator, which is hyper-vigilance.
Silver Sage Village COVID-19 guidelines generally prohibit outsiders from entering the common house, and itinerant use by community members.
During normal times, the building is seldom frequented except for a few people using the laundry, residents checking the mail, getting items from the storage room, the new social distancing criterium isn’t much of an inconvenience. The mailman is asked to wipe the mail boxes.
Most Baby Boomers, including myself, were around during the 1950s and 1960s toward the end of the polio pandemic, and the swine flu that spread in 2009, which coincided with the financial system collapse.
My family provided support when the oral polio vaccines came out. In my grade school one kid recovered from polio and wore a leg brace ala Forrest Gump. He was bullied because he also wore a hearing aid – back then, they were very conspicuous, with earphones wired to a receiver the size of a Band-Aid box.
Jonas Salk developed the first vaccine that was administered by injection. Getting jabbed with what seemed to be a needle the size of a railroad spike was my first shot.I don’t remember being freaked out about it.
Living on top of others is not new to me. One time, my grandfather, who had diabetes stayed with us. My grandmother was unable to care for him at the time since she was running the family business, the Highway Cafe.
I had to give up my bedroom, but went in to see him every morning because I was curious about the insulin shots he administered to himself. He let me poke him with the big syringe. It was a glass barrel connected to a stainless steel contraption. I don’t know how sterile it could be, since it was only wiped off by a cloth and some alcohol.
Anyway, I didn’t have a fear of needles, still don’t.
Back in the 1960s, the vaccine development competition was fierce. In the case of polio, Albert Sabin won the oral vaccine contest. Polio vaccines were risky in that some people who were vaccinated contracted polio, but that risk was outweighed by the number of cases prevented.
I remember a big family social event was gathering at my grandparents house on 8th Street in the Southside of Cheyenne. We walked over to the fire station and stood in line with all the other neighbors to get a sugar cube with pink fluid dropped onto it. Seems like there were boosters necessary, but the most memorable was the first one.
What about the swine flu pandemic from 2009? That was a pretty big deal. Obama had a lot on his plate back then keeping the auto industry and banks stable. He eventually declared swine flu a national emergency. I had to look it up to refresh my memory.
I don’t remember anything about self-isolating, wiping doorknobs with Clorox, social distancing or anything like what’s happening now – but 500,000 people died and a billion were sick around the world. Turned out, saving the world economy was more important than saving people.
There were warnings about the swine flu contagion, but no mass closures of schools or businesses, nor were employees self-isolating in mass numbers.
The coronavirus outbreak could be a lot like the swine flu and the crash of 2009. Getting ahead of the disease and propping up the economy is the best we can hope to minimize disruptions.
Cohousers have the wherewithal to fast track hyper-vigilant responses to the control the COVID-19 virus. The U.S. government getting out in front with an economic stimulus package that includes couple Andrew Yang-esque Uniform Basic Income payments of $1,000 to most people, will be a short-term shot in the arm.
I don’t know about you, but I have plenty of toilet paper in the bathroom cabinet – I’m a hoarder from way back. I’m eating up all my emergency food, though. Next crisis, I’ll stock up on my least favorite snacks.
I mentioned at the start about meeting my neighbor during a snowstorm. It was when I moved to Laramie for graduate school in 1976 or so and living at my parent’s townhouse.
There was a power outage and I saw my neighbor out on the walk. We were both checking out the situation – snow drifted to the side of the house and no power.
Turned out, he was a University of Wyoming alumnus and a former linebacker for the Pokes.
He and his family lived in Laramie during the off season when he wasn’t on the field playing for the St. Louis football Cardinals – it was none other than Conrad Dobler, pro-football’s “Dirtiest Player.”
Conrad turned out to be a pretty nice guy, and if you do anything over the next few weeks, get to know your neighbors, even if it’s from six feet away. Your lives may one day depend on your friendships.
There are some estimates that up to two-thirds of renters across the nation say they can’t afford to buy a home. Since home prices are rising at a rate twice that of wage growth, saving up for that down payment is an even bigger challenge.
Millenials and GenXers with high student debt are in this boat, as are some older folks who for one reason or another were unable to build any extra savings.
In a high-cost place like Boulder, Colorado, if you didn’t get started here at least 25 years ago, or came to town with a big wad of money, finding a place to live is a challenge – and that’s an understatement.
The Boulder Co-living community is proposed as a place for neighbors with diverse incomes from as low as 50 percent of the area media income can live. The project proposal is planned for a small lot known as Quadrant 4 on the Boulder Junction former Pollard motors site generally located at 30th and Pearl Street, and submitted at the end of March.
The city of Boulder will evaluate proposals and hopes to have a project selected by the end of April.
We want to develop a list of people interested in the project, particularly potential owners. There have been a couple informational meetings and recorded as a youtube video you can view.
Check out and see if you’re eligible for the city of Boulder Affordable Housing program. Becoming qualified ahead of time will give you a head start, for any home you may find that meets your needs as part of this project or otherwise.
High-density communities, such as Boulder Co-living, are seen as one way to provide affordable housing to owners and renters. Two such configurations are “cohousing” and “co-op housing” will be hybridized in the Boulder Co-living community.
In a cohousing neighborhood, residents own their homes, but agree through a shared vision and list of values to maintain and operate their community through participation in activities like mowing the lawn, weeding the garden and shoveling snow, while enjoying each other’s company at shared meals a couple times a week.
Similarly, residents of a rental cooperative house have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork. The residents typically govern through consensus and share responsibilities and resources. New members are typically selected by the community’s existing membership, rather than by real estate agents, property managers or non-resident landowners.
If you can’t afford to buy a home or your rent is too high how can Boulder Co-living meet your needs?
Research points to a variety of co-living benefits. The most often mentioned benefits relate to reducing social isolation. The co-living “secret sauce” provides for intentional socializing, neighborly support when a neighbor is under the weather; sharing chores, expertise; and having neighbors who share similar interests and values.
What is co-living “secret sauce”? Co-living has certain basic characteristics. They are fairly broad, but include:
- Relationships – Neighbors commit to being part of a community for mutual benefit. Co-living cultivates a culture of sharing and caring. Design features facilitate community-member interaction.
- Balancing Privacy and Community – Co-living communities are designed for privacy as well as community. Residents balance privacy and community by choosing their levels of community engagement.
- Participation – Decision-making is participatory and often based on consensus. Selft management empowers residents, builds relationships and can save money.
- Shared Values – Co-living communities support residents in actualizing shared values.
If you’re into energy efficiency; resource reuse and recycling; use your bike, feet, or bus to get yourself around, the Boulder Co-living community may be the place for you.
Above, the cover photo was taken in Memel, South Africa. Former CoHoUS board member Steven Ablondi and his wife Cindy Burns are building cohousing there to help fill the housing gap in post-Apartheid South Africa. They are teaching construction trades and use “rammed earth” blocks to construct the homes.
America has always been a country divided. What is it about cohousing that can close those social and cultural divides?
Cohousing, as a national m ovement, is just beginning to come to grips with the potential influence intentional communities can have when influencing social change efforts.
In fact, the Cohousing Association of the U.S. (CoHoUS) is exploring retrofit, adaptive reuse alternatives to traditional cohousing that is largely accessible to people with lots of money and time.
Check out the “Affordable Conference on Affordable Cohousing.”
I provide this historical information to provide context about how cohousing can have an impact on making social change happen.
When the United States were founded, never in their wildest dreams did settlers from Western Europe think that there were local people freely migrating across what is now the southern border, or coming and going along the Pacific Ocean coast.
Today, the divides are more apparent. In my view, on one side of the canyon are those who haven’t been paying attention to those standing on the other side who see themselves as being increasingly disenfranchised since the end of the Cold War.
Life was good for main stream Americans during suburbanization following World War II. Beginning during the 1960s, their sense of privilege was challenged by legislated civil rights for people, primarily African Americans disenfranchised since the Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society that brought about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Then Affirmative Action was viewed as a program that took jobs and college placements away from the dominant culture as ways to level the academic and employment playing fields.
In the 1930s, the two main political parties flipped ideology. The Republican Party that included Lincoln, was once the party of inclusion and a strong national government, which evolved into the opposite, when Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal grew the federal government to pull the nation out of the Great Depression starting in 1932.
Seems that now, party identifications are flipping again. The Republicans are now the party with a galvanized working class base, while the Democrats have become the party for a highly educated, but fragmented elite class and have lost it’s historic New Deal base.
What does this have to do with affordable cohousing, diversity and inclusion? Those include an infinite number of subtle intersections and collaborations around class, race, ethnicity, ability, gender, sexual orientation, etc. It’s a daunting task to deal with each of these differences on their own.
I’d say that every cohousing community has as a value, one about diversity and inclusion. Based on the conversations I hear about these topics, there’s a sense of frustration around what to do.
Living in cohousing changes the way each of us looks at the world and how we better accept people different from ourselves. Affordable cohousing results in greater diversity.
I’d say, people are generally uncomfortable about discussing personal issues and views around Superman’s American Way, money, race, class, gender identity, sexual preference. But those discussions are key to forming strong and cohesive communities – intentional or not.
While the bricks and mortar of cohousing are the buildings where residents live, the individuals who form a community are the most important aspect.
I live in cohousing and while, at least in my experience, it’s far from perfect, the intentionality brings neighbors together to work through tough issues – even though some may be on the petty side – like do we get rid of that old chair or not – they might as well be matters of life and death.
The upshot is, if there’s a housing configuration that is suited to forcing conversations among divergent opinions it’s cohousing.
There are 170 existing communities and 15,000 residents. The typical cohouser are characterized as: Caucasian; having high perceived social class; high income; high levels of education; progressive; 65 percent of the time an introvert; 70 percent of the time a woman.
To me the biggest frustration about cohousing is this. Cohousers by definition, because we’ve chosen this collaborative, cooperative, consensus-based lifestyle, we should be able to organize ourselves into some higher “saving the world” purpose.
- Changing Superman’s American Way, we are driven to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, make a lot of money and be on top. These cultural norms create roadblocks for the advancement of caring and interactive communities beyond what is familiar.
- Cohousing communities, by definition, bring diverse people together. Cohousers look at their personal histories and make changes so as to become more inclusive as opposed to just believing it’s a good idea and how to outreach to diverse communities.
- There are institutional barriers such as city councils and planning boards Cohousing “burning souls” create and maintain high-quality conversations and relationships personally, in community, and with city and county planners with innovative projects.
- American culture of rugged individualism precludes cohousing from entering the mainstream as it has in other countries. Cohousing is just starting to go viral. There are untapped numbers of diverse people who are parts of the “non-traditional” cohousing demographic and learn ways to approach that market.
According to the Cohousing Research Network, retrofit cohouser demographics are more likely to include: more racial and ethnical diverse; lower and middle perceived social class; low to moderate income earners; progressives; more single mothers.
The cohousing movement can become a catalyst for positive change including, non-traditional and diverse cohousing communities that bridge the gap between the left and right, the haves and have nots, in the U.S. today.
Sign up today for the Affordable Conference on Affordable Cohousing. There’s a little something for everyone.