Place-making is an intentional process designed to help the newly housed person connect with and take pride in their apartment. Without place-making, connectivity to the apartment is one of luck. We can increase the odds of connection - and by extension decrease the odds of a person damaging or vacating the apartment unit - by actively and intentionally engaging in place-making.
Place-making capitalizes on a person's assets, inspiration and potential. The intention is to use the apartment and surrounding neighbourhood to promote health, happiness and well-being. Here are four ideas to increase the effectiveness of place-making.
Choice is critical to place-making. Even in tight rental markets, people need to make informed choices on the neighbourhoods and type of apartment they want to dwell within. This doesn't mean choice is carte blanche. There are realities that need to be faced when it comes to affordability, for example, but choosing a place for a person or forcing them to live in a neighbourhood or type of apartment they do not want will not increase their connection to place.
Choice is also fundamental to furnishings. By giving people the ability to pick out their own furnishings rather than providing them a set collection of furnishings increases their connection to the furnishings and the place.
On the day of move in the support worker should be present at the time the program participant receives their keys. The first words out of the support worker's mouth as they enter the unit should exude positivity, focusing on positively reinforcing the features, qualities and/or location of the unit and why it is a great place.
On the day of move in, the support worker should also assist in cleaning the apartment. This does not make the support worker a maid service. By being proximate, the support worker sees first hand what skills and strengths the person has when it comes to cleaning and maintaining an apartment. When it comes to place-making, ensuring the apartment is clean at time of move-in increases pride and dignity of having the apartment.
Orientation to Building and Surrounding Community
Leaving the program participant on their own to explore the building and community that they have moved into is a missed opportunity for the support worker to increase place-making. By doing the orientation with the program participant there is the opportunity to reinforce features and benefits to the building and community, and help anchor the person to their new surroundings. Positive reinforcement goes a long way to helping people feel a connection to space and place - from where a person collects their mail to a nearby park where they can relax and enjoy the sunshine.
Create a Personal Guest Policy
Shortly after move-in, the support worker should assist the program participant in creating a personal guest policy. Think of it as the Rules of the House. The purpose of the guest policy is to outline things like when people are allowed to visit, what sorts of activities they want or do not want happening in their apartment, and to proactively think of whether they want visitors to touch their things, eat their food or consume their beverages. These aren't the rules of the support worker, so there must be caution in how the support worker reinforces and encourages the writing of the rules. You want to assist the program participant to see this as "My Own Rules".