Wintermission team in front of mural in Buffalo, NY

Wintermission Buffalo: Building on Neighborly Resilience

When we were in Buffalo last month, we heard a theory that its long winters are to thank for its reputation as “the City of Good Neighbors” — when there are record snowstorms, Buffalonians come out in droves to dig each other out. The harshness of the season helps build a sense of community and resilience, and those storms are a proud part of Buffalo’s history and identity.

But we also heard from residents that long winters can lead to social isolation. A lack of outdoor activities and events keeps 8-year-olds bored at home, while icy, uncleared sidewalks force 80-year-olds to rely on rides to get around. Winter can be expensive, for both individuals and for municipalities, and Buffalo is one of the poorest cities in America. For Wintermission Buffalo, we asked: how can we build on Buffalo’s neighborly resilience to improve public life in winter?

 Community engagement process in Buffalo

To hear from as many communities and groups as possible about winter challenges and ideas, we led 20 unconventional engagements over five days. We visited schools, community centers, drop-in centers, block clubs, Broadway Market, West Side Bazaar, and the downtown library, and we threw a neighborhood party in MLK Park. By going where people already were, we were able to speak with children, seniors, college students, neighborhood leaders, new Americans, frontline workers, firefighters, and small business owners, as well as city staff, about the barriers they face and what might help.

 Engagement activity with kids in Buffalo

The local Wintermission Buffalo team — City of Buffalo Citizen Services, GObike Buffalo, and the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo — are continuing to reach out to community groups throughout April to ensure that we get as many perspectives as we can. We will use all the feedback and ideas, along with best practices from around the world, to develop pilot project ideas later this summer to test out next winter.

To see a list of public events where you can find the Wintermission Buffalo team, or to fill out the Winter Life Survey, visit wintermission.org/buffalo.

 

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