On Tuesday, May 8, our GreaterTogether Listening Tour 2018 stopped at the Early Childhood Learning Center at Hockanum School in East Hartford. Nearly 30 residents joined Hartford Foundation President Jay Williams for a stimulating community conversation. After a short introduction, the floor was opened to give those in attendance the opportunity to share what they love about living in East Hartford, as well as some of the challenges facing their community.
Here are a few things we learned throughout the course of the evening:
East Hartford is a great place to live, however like other communities we’ve heard from on our Listening Tour, community and economic development is a challenge. It is difficult to attract young people with families to East Hartford for a few reasons. First, most of the homes in East Hartford are small, historic starter homes with small lots, which makes it a great community for young people to start their families. However, as these families begin to grow, so does their need for bigger houses with larger lots, which results in them leaving East Hartford for more space elsewhere. In addition, with many businesses moving out of the community, property taxes continue to rise, making it difficult to afford to live in East Hartford for some families. Is there a way to build more community and economic opportunities to encourage a new generation to work and raise their families in East Hartford?
There is a lack of public transportation, with buses stopping their runs at around 6:00 p.m. We have heard this common theme at other stops on our Listening Tour. How can we increase access to quality transportation for all residents?
There is an overall negative perception of East Hartford – that it is unsafe and the schools are bad. While school facilities are in need of renovation, such as making the playgrounds handicap accessible, this perception is not entirely correct. The diversity of the students attending school in East Hartford is something special, which includes immigrants from other countries who give students an expanded worldview. Additionally, East Hartford Public Schools are working to expand their community and family partnerships, and recently received a grant from the Hartford Foundation to support this effort. You can read more about it here.
Outside of school, there are a lack of extracurricular activities for youth to participate in, particularly arts based. There are no specific places for young people to gather around their particular interests in order to create community. Furthermore, there are a lack of family-oriented businesses in East Hartford such as roller skating rinks, as well as summer programs specifically for East Hartford youth that are affordable for residents. The Foundation puts out a Summer Program Directory for Greater Hartford residents every year, which is full of free and affordable programs for youth in our region. The 2018 edition is coming out soon.
Collaboration within East Hartford is great. People love to work together. During the discussion, a participant mentioned that East Hartford is getting a new Senior Center that people hope will become a state-of-the-art place where seniors can gather. At Pitkin’s Elementary, a Grandparent Friendship Circle wants to be involved in working with the senior center to help fight loneliness. What a great example of collaborating to be greater together!
Thank you to everyone who attended our sixth Listening Tour event! If there are any additional ideas you would like share, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you! Our next stop is Cheney Hall in Manchester on May 23. Visit greatertogether2018.org for more information on how to register!