RE: attracting co-housers: finding a community
From: Rob Sandelin (Exchange) (
Date: Mon, 10 Jun 1996 11:37:01 -0500
DOrthey wrote several steps she used to look for a community. Here are
>my suggestions:
>>1) ease in obtaining information.  I only wrote to communities with an
>>contact.  Is yours current?  6 of the ones listed on the co-housing web page
>>are now defunct; several others never answered my letters.  I wrote first to
>>those communities with web pages.
>Your chances of getting a return letter are much higher if you include a self
>addressed stamped envelope with your inquiry. It is also good to include
>enough about yourself and your community interests to let people know about
>you and how you  would fit in. I have heard from community seekers that a 10%
>return to written inquires is about what you can expect unless you use a SASE
>and then it jumps up to around 40%. That means it is typical that over half
>the inquires you send out, even with an SASE, will not get answered.
>>2) some kind of time-frame/financial info.  Obviously we care about when
>>are/will be available, and if we could afford one.
>Developing communities are often careful about time and money specifics.
>Seldom do the time and costs come out as you think. I would think you could
>get ranges, but would be surprised if you got absolute dates and costs from
>any project except one very much built. I would be very suspicious of a
>forming project, which doesn't even have land yet, if they are quoted prices
>and timelines. 
>>3)  member bios.  This is far more interesting to me than a color brochure;
>>yet only *2* of the 30-plus places I have heard from offered member bios
>>(one is listed on the web page; smart move).
>This is a good idea although be sure to ask your neighbors before you send
>out their bio's. Some folks want to retain their privacy and only share those
>details with their neighbors, not in a general handout that goes out to the
>world.Bios are nice, but they are often very misleading. What you want to
>know is what people are like now, not where they went to school or what they
>say about themselves. THe only way to pick up what people are really like is
>to spend time with them. This goes both ways. WHich is why many communities
>will tell you to come visit.
> At Sharingwood for awhile we included a general demographics: 12 people
>between the ages of 30-40, 4 kids aged 4-5, etc. Got several comments from
>folks that this worked for them, since one very often asked question is how
>old are kids.
>>4) how nice the correspondence was.  Perhaps I should have listed this one
>>first, since it has been the most important.  We got a whole range of
>>from "Yes! We'd love to send you more information" to "Well, you'd have to
>>move here first, attend a few meetings, and then see if we liked you."
>>whom we wrote back to. Based on the warmth and helpfulness of several North
>>Carolina communties, we have now scheduled a summer trip to an area of the
>>country we had practically never heard of before.  Someone said here on the
>>list a few days ago that he wouldn't take an active interest in people until
>>they had attended three meetings.  I guess it goes both ways; I wouldn't
>>three meetings until someone had taken an active interest.
>Well speaking for Sharingwood, in the last five years there have been
>hundreds of inquiries, dozens of people come to meetings, a small handful
>became neighbors.What we have learned is that if someone takes the time to
>visit and then comes back again, they are more likely to become a neighbor
>than a random letter in the mail. So far not a single member came through
>random letters in the mail. One of these days I should count how many letters
>we get asking us for info, it seems like a lot. Our entry in the Communities
>Directory has generated several dozen, mostly from folks who make it obvious
>in their inquiry that they would not fit into Sharingwood. Thus they never
>get a return letter, and also because we are not desparately seeking members.
>Actually we are not doing any recruiting and folks still keep calling and
>coming, and from those folks, have formed our waiting list and friends list.
>These are the folks, that when units come for sale, will be in the loop. 
>So much of what happens in resonse to inquiries is kind of random.
>Communities are not often well functioning business-like operations, and so
>answering letters and the quality of the answer depends entirely on the
>person who volunteers for the job. If they are on vacation, or burnt out, you
>may never hear from them. Letters get passed around, get lost, get send
>without stamps, scribbled on by kids, etc.  Very few communities are together
>enough to send out a form letter response: "Dear sir or madam, thank you for
>your inquiry, our recruitment person just had a baby and we can not process
>your request at this time."
>What really happens is that the job gets handled by someone who is often even
>less organized.
>Typically ONE person gets stuck handling this stuff and they may or may not
>do a very good job of it.  If a community is really hungery for members they
>will  place a lot more emphasis on it than one that is not. However, choosing
>a community by whom gave you a personal anwser is maybe not a very good way
>to pick who you want to live with.
>So if you are in search mode, my advice is once you find a community, get
>involved with them, even if you can't live there for awhile. Become a
>"friend" of the community, even if they have no such designation, by helping
>out at work efforts, going to special events, whatever you can do to spend
>time with folks. THen read all their stuff, their mission, bylaws, etc and
>then you will have a good idea of whether its the place for you. 
>One general tone I get sometimes which really annoys me is when strangers
>demand things of me or my community. "It's your responsibility to answer my
>letter" "How come no body is around to give me a tour on Wednesday
>afternoon?".  "How come no body returned my long distance phone call?"
>People sometimes seem to expect that communities exist to provide "THEM" with
>service, right now. It aint that way, and folks with that attitude usually
>end up never finding a commnity, because no one wants them. People who do
>tours or answer phone calls and letters are volunteers, not paid staff
>members. So keep in mind the great truth of community life: Reality lies
>somewhere between the potential and the glitches. Or as P.T. Barnum said when
>someone criticized his dancing bear act: " Lady, the amazing thing about a
>dancing bear is not how WELL it dances, but that it dances at ALL."
>By the way, if anyone else out there (without a web page) is actively
>recruiting and would be interested in a family of 3 (ESL teacher; artist/yoga
>teacher; 2-year old) some time after summer 1997, we'd love to hear from you.
>We're looking for somewhere clean and green, although anywhere would probably
>look green after Osaka.
>Dorothy Zemach
>dw195005 [at]
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