Main Street Connect is the first community-oriented, affordable, accessible housing solution to redefine the concept of inclusion in a large, vibrant community space within the apartment complex itself. Just steps away from the Metro and Rockville Town Center, our thoughtful and purposeful member-based programming breaks down barriers to improve quality of life and community-building for everyone, no matter their age, location, ability, or background. This inclusive mindset and culture of hope and opportunity seeks to flourish beyond Main Street’s walls and inspire a new generation – without barriers, without judgment, and with genuine inclusion for all.
Building this culture of inclusivity must begin somewhere. During the first week of November, Main Street hosted a landmark gathering of thought-leaders from across the country that kick-started a national discussion co-led by people with and without disabilities. Alongside The Kelsey, Main Street heard from Patuxent Commons, Our Stomping Ground, Our Home Inclusive Community Collaborative, The Faison Center, and other keynote speakers with this same goal of Building Inclusivity in communities across the country.
Our conference began on Tuesday, November 2nd with a big Main Street welcome to the 50 attendees from 10 different states and a discussion on Main Street’s vision, mission, and values as a nonprofit. After a good night’s rest, the bulk of the conference commenced on Wednesday, November 3rd where attendees learned about other organizations’ models and projects, as well as larger topics of financing inclusive housing and disability-forward advocacy, all led by experts from several different organizations.
The first session was led by Scott Copeland of RST Development and Main Street, who shared all Main Street had learned about financing and building inclusive, affordable housing for attendees to use in their own development processes. Micaela Connery from The Kelsey followed this discussion with a deep dive into their organization and how they have been successful in building inclusivity, ending the day with a virtual panel that covered the many ways to create opportunities for leaders with disabilities. Accessibility does not end with a sticker, as Consumer Rights Advocate, Liz Grisby, said during this panel, “Just being able to get through the door does not mean you’re accessible.”
The final day of the conference focused on advancing advocacy and disability-forward policy strategies, with discussions led by The Kelsey’s Fatimah Aure and Allie Cannington. Alison Barkoff, the Principal Deputy Administrator for the Administration for Community Living also spoke about the federal side of housing and disability rights and the impact the Administration makes, “Each year, over 10 million older adults, people with disabilities, and caregivers through [a] nationwide disability and aging network.”
Over the course of these three days, this conference ultimately taught us that we need to…
- be active in local communities with local legislators;
- form coalitions that are co-led by people with and without disabilities;
- remember that disability-forward advocacy takes curiosity, courage, and creativity; and
- celebrate the small wins – inclusive, affordable housing projects take time!
We all deserve to belong in a community where we feel valued and included; affordable, accessible housing projects across the country are working hard to do just that! Together, we can move disability housing forward with goals of ensuring different versions of the Main Street model can exist in any community and that people of ALL abilities have a seat at the table. In doing so, we are setting the standard for redefining inclusion for all.
Main Street is offering a video link for presentations from this conference that includes specific details for HOW to build affordable, inclusive, and community-minded projects. If you’d like to learn more about Main Street, feel free to contact Sharon Cichy at firstname.lastname@example.org.