Welcoming new residents means dealing with those members of your community who are not so open to new people moving in.
Practical step 1: Magnify stories of people being welcoming.
Because it’s uncomfortable when you hear complaints about new residents moving in, you remember it.
You don’t remember the thousand and one ways local people are being welcoming, because you never see most of them.
The woman who makes cookies for her new neighbor’s kids.
The man who stops to help someone carry their heavy moving boxes.
The people who go out of their way to invite a newcomer to an event, then stop by to pick them up.
When you do hear those stories, magnify them. Make sure everyone knows it’s normal and expected to welcome new people.
Practical step 2: Hold well-publicized welcome events.
Another way to make sure everyone knows it’s normal and expected to welcome new people, is to hold welcome events for newcomers and publicize them.
Bennettsville, South Carolina, hosted regular gatherings of newcomers to learn more about them, and for the new residents to learn more about Bennettsville.
Officials answered questions like what to do with bulky garbage, how the electric bill works and how to submit articles to the local paper.
New residents shared their stories. They found places where they could volunteer and heard ideas about helping the downtown.
The secret to gathering the newcomers was to have the real estate agents who sold houses to them personally invite them. They could also ask the city to invite people who made new utility deposits, or check with the library so they can invite people who recently applied for a library card. Brainstorm more ways to find your own new residents.
When you hear complaints
When you do hear complaints, it’s ok to gently point out that your town is open to everyone. People of all ages, all ethnicities, all backgrounds, all incomes. People who are new in town and people who have been here for generations.
Our town is changing all the time because it is a living community of people.
And new people in your town are part of the change. They bring with them new ways of doing things, and new ideas.
We are valuing the people who are here now. Together, we’re creating the town we want to live in, one small step at a time.
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