Compassionate Winston-Salem Forms Housing Constellation

      Compassionate Winston-Salem, a movement formed within Interfaith Winston-Salem, has been working for more than two years now to build a more compassionate city. Using a “constellations” model, the goal is to create working groups in many different areas of the city's life. Thus far, constellations have been organizing to work with our schools, the healthcare system, the justice system and animals.
     A new constellation has recently begun to build compassion in housing. The housing group was sparked by the present community concerns about the possible elimination of a large number of affordable living spaces at Ardmore Terrace and Cloverdale Apartments with high-end apartments built to replace them. Being a compassionate city means we seek to respect and care for the needs of others, treating them as we wish to be treated. All of our city's residents deserve the basic right to a safe and affordable place to live, and among the community concerns about the razing of Ardmore Terrace/Cloverdale Apartments is the lack of affordable housing for those displaced.
       Sensing a larger issue than just this particular development project, a small group came together to determine how Compassionate Winston-Salem might address community housing concerns. The idea of creating a “compassionate housing” movement came out of this concern.
       The first step was to create an understanding of what “compassionate housing” means. Compassionate housing is more than just the cost of a mortgage or rent. It includes availability of services nearby, such as fresh foods, transportation, jobs and schools. We quickly learned that much of the city's affordable housing is located in “food deserts” with no grocery stores and limited other services in the vicinity. Compassionate housing also includes living in a safe neighborhood, not just free of crime but also free of such health threats as lead and other toxins. It means living in an environmentally appealing neighborhood with green spaces, trees, plants and birds. Compassionate housing is accessible for older adults and the disabled. It also means neighborhoods are protected from inequitable economic forces such as gentrification. In treating others as we wish to be treated, is this not the kind of neighborhood we all want to live in?
       The next step was to begin to gather information, learning all we could about the present state of housing in our city, a process that continues. The City-County Planning staff, including Director Paul Norby, warmly welcomed seven of us to meet with them and the city’s Community and Business Development staff recently. At the request of the mayor and City Council, the Planning staff has done a study of housing in the city, including home prices, rental prices and available services. They confirmed that the trend is clearly a shift in the balance towards more expensive housing. We also have met individually with members of City Council, Habitat for Humanity, program staff of The Winston-Salem Foundation and others. This is a great concern to the city leadership, including the Planning staff. However, beyond zoning regulations and tax-related incentives, there is little that can be done to prevent land-owners and developers from replacing affordable housing with high-end construction.
       The challenge of maintaining, much less increasing the availability of affordable housing in our city, is daunting. It is a complex issue with many aspects and parties involved. A reason for hope is that the vision of Compassionate Winston-Salem is to bring everyone to the table, so that the sum of our work together is far greater than what we can do separately. We hope to soon have city government, land owners, developers, city residents and others working together to find ways to build a truly compassionate city, where all are living in safe and affordable neighborhoods.
       We welcome all who might like to join this effort. You can join us or get more information by emailing Jerry McLeese ( or Truman Dunn (