Since 2014, neighborhoods in the City of Flint have relied on the help and support of the Neighborhood Engagement Hub (NEH) and this year, it will only get better. “People haven’t really known what we were or the services we offer,” says Executive Director, Tom Wyatt. “We are restructuring and have established a new mission and core values.” The NEH is also improving efficiency with the creation of six new departments and is expanding its program offerings. The headquarters has also undergone a remodel to make it safer and more appealing to neighborhood groups and individuals for use as a meeting and learning space. “We did almost all the work ourselves to save on cost,” Wyatt says laughing. “It took a bit longer than expected, but we are almost done.”
“We want our neighborhoods to be successful and have a higher quality of life.”
Tom Wyatt, Executive Director
The NEH came into existence after the dissolution of the Salem Housing Corporation and inherited their buildings. It was created to provide solutions and support for city residents and groups as they worked to address challenges or opportunities in their neighborhoods. NEH became what was lacking in the area and sorely needed – a community advocate and resource for improvement. In October 2021, Wyatt came to the organization and found an opportunity to really establish NEH and weave its mission and values into the fabric of the city. “Flint needs more organizations like NEH,” he says. “There is just so much need.”
To better clear up any confusion about what is offered by NEH, Wyatt and staff first came up with a new mission statement that better reflects their overall purpose which reads: “The Neighborhood Engagement Hub is a catalyst for positive neighborhood change by supporting neighborhoods to become safe, healthy and whole.” This can be accomplished in a myriad of ways from providing tools and opportunity for clean-up, to support in grant-writing or tax help, to providing education and problem solutions. Each NEH program will fall under the umbrella of one of three newly-adopted core values.
1. Building Local Wealth.
The NEH looks to support strategies that create economic benefits for neighborhood residents. “We have a real estate program called ‘Flint Builds’ that will help residents obtain capital for projects that can help raise home values,” says Wyatt. “We typically have anywhere from 25-50 participants in the program.”
2. Complete Neighborhoods.
The NEH wants to help resident groups to create neighborhoods that include safe and convenient access to the goods/services needed in daily life. This includes employment, shopping, parks, health care, etc. “For example, we are currently working on tactical strategies in the 2nd Ward and the Brownell Holmes Neighborhood for adequate parks and shared space improvements,” adds Wyatt.
3. Strengthening Individuals & Collectives.
A main goal of NEH is to support the projects and ideas of Flint residents. The NEH acts as a fiduciary for local neighborhood groups, provides grant writing assistance, acts as a planning consultant and an education hub. “I believe we are working with ten neighborhood groups now toward improvement of their communities,” says Wyatt. “We are also holding trade workshops attended by youth in grades kindergarten through high school.”
The NEH provides support for various flint neighborhood projects including gardens and beautification.
In addition to new values, the NEH is streamlining operations through the creation of six departments:
- Blight Elimination
- Economic Development
- Public Policy
- Public Safety
- Training & Technical Assistance
Despite all the changes, the NEH has not abandoned its core programs and will continue to support the Community Tool Shed that provides access to equipment for landscaping and blight removal free of charge for City of Flint residents. “By far, our biggest program is the Tool Shed,” states Wyatt. “Any Flint resident has access to tools for clean-ups and beautification. In any given week, we can have between 1,500 and 2,000 tool reservations. The Tool Shed opens for residents in mid-April and closes sometime in November.” Flint residents have access to lawnmowers, brush hogs, weed-whackers, rakes, shovels, wheelbarrows and more, with larger tools delivered by NEH staff. “Residents outside of Flint can still borrow the equipment for a fee,” explains Wyatt. This year, the NEH is looking to open up a smaller shed in the Mott Park area and one on the city’s south side. In addition to tools, the NEH also rents Mobile Event Tool Kits which include tables, tents, chairs, PA System, lawn games, a popcorn cart and more. “We want to support events in neighborhoods,” adds Wyatt.
“The Neighborhood Engagement Hub is a catalyst for positive neighborhood change by supporting neighborhoods to become safe, healthy and whole.”
From NEH Mission Statement
In another new announcement, this year’s Porch Project will fall under the umbrella of the NEH with porch improvements for residents slated to start in May. It will continue to operate as it has in the past with the added support of the NEH.
The NEH, in its work to become a main city component, wants to live up to its promise and act as a hub for community engagement. Neighborhood and local groups are free to use the main building as a meeting space for conversations or learning workshops. “Just call us up and we can check availability on our calendar,” Wyatt explains. “Currently, our website is undergoing a relaunch and the plan is to display a calendar showing dates and times of our workshops and space availability.” There are plans in the works to allow residents to check the availability of tools in the shed online in the near future.
With the community tool shed program, flint residents can rent tools to help with outdoor upkeep and projects.
Wyatt and the NEH want it to be clear that the organization is there to help Flint residents build a better neighborhood and future. They are available to act as consultants and problem-solvers, planners and advocates. If you have a question about the feasibility of an idea, or are looking for a solution to a problem such as illegal dumping, park utilization and upkeep or non-structural blight (overgrowth), planning decisions and more, give NEH a call. If you require a fiduciary for a neighborhood group, help with grant-writing or local policy, NEH is there for you. “We want our neighborhoods to be successful and have a higher quality of life,” says Wyatt. “We are here for those who want to add value to the community.”
To contact NEH, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 810.214.4829 and leave a message with your contact info. To contact the Tool Shed, email email@example.com or call 810.214.0186.
If you are in need of a tool for your project, make sure to contact the NEH and make a reservation. (Set to open for the year in mid-April.)
Skilled trade professionals (engineers, electricians, plumbers, etc.) interested in hosting workshops for area youth and adolescents are invited to contact the NEH for more information.