Collecting the tools of a sustainable, self-directed life


22- Evaluating Philly, Part Two

Having identified an affordable plot in Philly to build a tiny home on, I realize that evaluation can’t stop there. I have to address my reasons for this simple living experiment: autonomy, community and sustainability. With these values in mind, how might life in Philadelphia look like the one I have now? How might it look different?

While my previous post was concerned with how Philly might affect me, these principles remind me to consider how I will integrate with and serve Philadelphia. 

Originally, I chose the Hudson Valley for my new life because I love nature. I wanted to live someplace quiet and beautiful, where I could regularly experience, enjoy and give back to nature. I wanted to learn about gardening and green, simple building in a place where others did the same.

Now that I’m here, I’m able to build relationships with my neighbors around those passions and interests. Sharing with them has become central to the mutual feelings of belonging and community between us.

But the current state of emergency in Philadelphia, which according to The Philadelphia Roadmap to Safer Communities included “351 homicides and 1,403 shootings in 2018,” might change the way I would share with the city. The Roadmap found that gun violence “is largely concentrated in communities that also experience structural violence” and “extreme trauma.” It suggests a public health approach to the violence by addressing this associated trauma and structural violence, which it defined as the harm experienced “from economic and social structures that prevents them from meeting basic needs.” 

And my commitment to community and sustainability would demand that I aid in that effort. So, on my trip to research Philly, I’d set aside some time to speak with neighbors and community volunteers and to get an understanding of the most local partnerships and activities combating gun and structural violence. I’d try to decipher which have been most successful, best align with my values and interests and could most use my service. While my work building community and sustainability in Philadelphia may not revolve around nature, it would be essential to my autonomous life there. 

In evaluating Philly, we see that tiny house legality is just the tip of the iceberg for evaluating replicability. Having land options that fit one’s personal needs (financial, safety, aesthetic, privacy, etc.)  and mutually beneficial community relationships have been just as important to my success in the Hudson Valley. And I believe that these would be important factors in any area that I would consider setting this self-directed life. 

That said, Philadelphia is a place that is striving. While it was the city with the 6th highest murder rate in the country. It is the only one in that top six to have adopted a comprehensive  public health approach to gun violence, which researchers have been promoting for years. The city has to the potential to pave a brighter way to heal trauma and prevent gun and structural violence throughout the country.

What about you? How would you approach evaluating a city for replicability? What other aspects of your life might you consider? Put your answers in the comments below. Let’s figure it out together.