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LETTER: Affordable Housing Critical to Watertown’s Fabric

Updated: May 10

This letter by Gary Richards, Pastor of the Belmont-Watertown United Methodist Church, appeared in the Watertown News

I am writing as a local clergy person concerned with the fraying of the social fabric of the local communities.

Over the past 6 years I have served as the pastor of the Belmont-Watertown United Methodist Church. During this time and over the past 29 years in pastoral ministry I have experienced the vital importance churches serve as community organizations. Churches have long been a place of worship for members and friends and free and affordable space for community life. In Watertown the former St. John’s United Methodist Church, now Belmont-Watertown United Methodist Church is a prime example of a worship community woven into community life.

The church has a long history of providing space for recovery meetings, a home for the Watertown Food Pantry, Scouts, theater and cultural organizations to name of few. This is the work of weaving a fabric that reflects the needs, hopes and dreams of neighbors. In the same fashion, the development of affordable housing embraces the needs, hopes and dreams of neighbors. An affordable permanent residence enhances the possibility for community life.

Today, there are fewer and fewer options for community life to thrive. Churches struggle to stay open as membership dwindles and building maintenance costs drain resources. Other social and community organizations find it increasingly difficult to find volunteers and leaders. Creating housing opportunities for all neighbors and particularly individuals and families seeking affordability will add strength to the social fabric which holds us all together.

Granted increased housing opportunities will not immediately replace the loss of community organizations and institutions, but new neighbors living in affordable and sustainable homes will form the threads to strengthen a worn social fabric.

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