Opinion — This is all of us

Published 4:35 pm Friday, September 2, 2022

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

These are precious words to live by. They are woven through the fabric of cultures around the world to the heart of who we all should aspire to be as human beings.

Why? Because we can disagree on many things, but if we all lived by the “Golden Rule,” as it is known, we could eliminate much pain and hurt on an individual, community, and national level. Living this way is a sign of respect and represents a choice to value others as we value ourselves.

The “Golden Rule” was the starting point for leaders of the Interfaith Collective at the July 27 community meeting to reimagine Longwood Village from housing students to affordable housing for the community. The delightful evening drew representatives from the community, county and town officials, non-profit organizations, and local leaders for a sorely needed residential development.

Before I go on, let me back up to how we arrived at this important juncture. Prince Edward County-Town of Farmville Housing Coalition (PECTFHC) and the Richmond-based nonprofit Better Housing Coalition (BHC) are partnering to transform the former student housing units into housing options to benefit the community. BHC has signed a letter of intent with the Longwood Real Estate Foundation to purchase Longwood Village and the PECTFHC and BHC are working with Urban Design Associates on potential designs.

STEPS, Inc. is the community action agency serving the region, so it was a natural fit for us to volunteer to facilitate this process and keep it moving forward. 

The issue hits close to the heart of what we do at STEPS: Moving Lives Forward.

But there are many seats at the table of need. Seniors need affordable housing. Families need affordable housing. People living with disabilities need affordable housing.  Young professionals need affordable housing. Job recruiters need affordable housing to attract employees.

Yet, for many, “affordable” is a barrier that they cannot overcome, which is why so many of us in your community are working so hard on this much needed residential development.

The reimagining was (and remains) a real-time process; designers listened to the community at a July 25 meeting at the Moton Museum, answered and addressed follow-up questions at the July 27 meeting, and kept modifying a draft design based on community wishes.

I am extremely excited to see so many attend these two meetings (nearly two hundred). We appreciate the transparency and honesty of our neighbors to ensure fully accurate information shared.

Building opinions on bad information is like constructing a house on sand. One can do so, but it will eventually collapse leaving a wreckage of distrust. So, we ask that if anyone still has questions about this initiative, please reach out directly to STEPS or BHC. We will share the truth.

Collectively, we are nearing a community design for as many as three hundred total units. It could mean affordable apartments, housing units for seniors, townhouses, and single-family bungalows.

Realistically, it can provide a mixture of affordable options to satisfy the needs of young professionals, small and large families, and seniors. The first phase would involve the modification of the existing ninety-six housing units in the eight brick buildings already on site. The next phase focuses on the ten-acre balance of the site.

This is going to be a challenging process, but community leaders are onboard. Longwood University President W. Taylor Reveley, Farmville Mayor David Whitus and Prince Edward Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dr. Odessa Pride all spoke at the July 27 unveiling.

We are delighted to have them partnering with us — as we are delighted to have all of you —sharing in this process and what is to come.

So, let us look to the guidance of the “Golden Rule” and provide an opportunity for others in need to have what we want for ourselves: safe, affordable, and attainable housing.

Because this impactful opportunity reflects us.

All of us.

Sharon Harrup serves as the President and CEO of STEPS, Inc. STEPS’ corporate offices are located at 225 Industrial Park Road in Farmville. For more information on this initiative or any STEPS program, contact STEPS at (434) 315-5909.