Neighborhood conflict resolved

After neighbors become alarmed at multiple police visits to a transitional housing project, DRC mediators are called to help improve the situation. Here’s their story.

Gunshots in the neighborhood

Police and firefighters had been coming to the transitional housing project next door to Cathleen’s condo a lot lately. Late in the evenings, Cathleen often heard loud music and saw young children hanging around outside, unattended. When she learned that the most recent police visit was due to a gunshot, she’d had enough!

Cathleen contacted her city’s officials and received information for a local Dispute Resolution Center (DRC). A DRC mediator discussed the situation with Cathleen and offered to get in touch with the group that ran the housing project to see if they would meet with Cathleen and her neighbors. The mediator contacted the transitional housing project, and they agreed a meeting would be a good idea. They acknowledged that things had been rough and wanted to explain what had happened and how they were going to fix it.

DRC steps in to convene public safety meeting

Two weeks later, the DRC convened a meeting to discuss the public safety issues in the neighborhood. Meeting attendees included five concerned neighbors, three representatives from the transitional housing program, and several representatives from the police and fire departments. Everyone had an opportunity to speak. The neighbors expressed anxiety about the police activity next door, the unsupervised children, and the noise and disturbance. The housing group representatives explained that recent county government changes had limited their control over screening new residents. The housing group understood the neighbors’ concerns and explained that they were planning to install cameras and hire security. Police and fire representatives also acknowledged the situation and shared information on their community-based policing programs.

Open collaboration leads to a plan

When the meeting started, the mood was formal—but once everyone began talking and sharing their perspectives, it became collaborative and conversational. Neighbors appreciated that the housing group had explained the situation and outlined the steps they were taking. The housing group representatives acknowledged the neighbors’ concerns and promised to work hard to ensure that the facility would be safe. The facility manager provided his contact information and invited the neighbors to get in touch with him anytime. The police expressed concern about the unsupervised children and said they would respond whenever called to assess the children’s welfare.

The neighborhood situation improves

Three months after the mediation the neighborhood situation had improved. Cathleen observed a significant drop in police visits. There were no unsupervised children outside late in the evening, and it was quieter. Cathleen recalled that she and her neighbors had gone to the mediation feeling angry and confused. When they left, they believed that real solutions were possible. Housing project management also felt it was a positive meeting. And for the mediators involved—the meeting and the subsequent positive changes again confirmed the power that comes from connecting people through dialogue and building relationships.

Are there conflicts in your community?

If there are conflicts in your community that would benefit from mediation, you can get help by calling your local DRC today.

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Why DRC mediation?

DRCs reduce the burdens of the courts, saving taxpayers money, and increasing access to justice for traditionally underserved populations. In 2019 DRCs mediated 5,070 cases, successfully settling 64% of them. 90% of clients reported mediation improved their situation.

Annually DRCs appropriate over $2 million worth of volunteer hours, directly serve over 55,000 people, indirectly serve 200,000 people whose lives are positively affected by mediation and other services and reach out to over 7 million Washington residents.

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