As a social worker, Walles has plenty of experience talking to people about their housing concerns, but she’d never been part of an activist group until joining SST. Learning about the specifics, she’s become more passionate, she says, a transformation she hopes other residents will also experience.
Informed residents have more agency and a “seat at the table,” says Walles.
“Somerville Stands Together has forced the city and the officials to be more transparent, which makes residents have that second thought: ‘these are issues I need to pay more attention to,’” she adds.
Involved residents can make demands, like calling for bigger affordable units, she says.
“There are very little three-bedroom affordable housing opportunities. What happens to larger families?” says Walles.
The group’s plans for the future involve door-knocking, writing op-eds, and attending more public meetings en masse. Whether they’ll form a 501(c)(3) or hire paid employees hasn’t been determined yet, says Jennewein.
SST’s bi-weekly steering meetings involve a diverse swath of people, she says.
“The meetings are intergenerational, with men and women in the room. There’s a social worker in the room, an iron worker, there’s me, all kinds of people,” says Jennewein, who works as a union organizer for Service Employees International Union as her day job.
Having diverse buy-in on the group’s objectives is crucial in building the movement, she says.
“There has been a lot of division in the past, pitting long-term residents versus the newer residents,” says Jennewein. “Many of the newer folks who are coming in agree that they want the Somerville that they’d heard of—[one that’s] diverse and has artists and crossing guards living on the same street. I think some of that kind of narrative of long-term residents versus newer residents is just a narrative,” she adds.