Since 2005, I have been an active member of the Baltimore Homeownership Preservation Coalition, which helps Baltimore residents address the potential loss of their home to foreclosure. We recognized the problem early, and mobilized to get the message out to people in mortgage trouble that they should seek help from a nonprofit housing counselor.
The good news is that housing counselors have helped thousands of people avoid foreclosure. Our coalition has distributed brochures throughout Baltimore to let renters know that they have rights if their landlord is foreclosed on. However, the fight against foreclosure also has been humbling, because the crisis has affected many more people, and lasted much longer, than we originally had thought it would.
The difficult truth is that Baltimore, like cities across America, is vulnerable to not only economic but also environmental and political crises. Given the realities of economic interdependence, global warming, and international terrorism, we should be making resilience—the ability to respond to crises and adapt effectively—a core principle in our work with families and neighborhoods.
This is a call for hope and action, not fear and defensiveness. As the authors of the book Resilient Cities emphasize, “Resilience is built on hope…cities require an inner strength, a resolve, as well as a strong physical infrastructure and built environment.” A city like Baltimore requires a shared understanding across diverse communities of why resilience matters, and a commitment to increasing resilience over time.
Baltimore has taken important steps in this direction. The city’s Sustainability Plan outlines how we can achieve environmental resilience on diverse fronts. Our foreclosure coalition has demonstrated how a committed group of nonprofit, foundation, public sector, and for-profit partners can respond flexibly to a stubborn crisis. We can and should build on collective efforts to make our city more resilient.