Transforming neighborhoods

A conversation with Blake Johnson, neighborhood revitalization manager

At Habitat for Humanity of Omaha, we partner with residents and community leaders to ensure that not only homes—but entire neighborhoods—have what they need to be vibrant and safe places to live. Through our Neighborhood Revitalization program, we’re helping neighbors transform their communities into inviting places to call home. 

It all starts with a vision of what residents want to see—how their communities can transform the quality of life for themselves and their neighbors. Guided by Habitat’s Quality of Life Framework, projects are selected based on the community’s perspective of what would create positive change.

Habitat Omaha’s Neighborhood Revitalization Manager, Blake Johnson, described the process of selecting a neighborhood and determining its needs. By assessing essential elements such as housing, transportation, community partnerships, and infrastructure, Habitat Omaha and the local community determine how to best assist. Neighborhood residents are at the center of the process, not just in vision, but also in working together to see the vision become a reality. 

Habitat Omaha has worked with several neighborhoods, including Kountze Park, Adams Park, and Deer Park. In Kountze Park, the entire neighborhood has been transformed by the removal of vacant, blighted houses and the redevelopment of overgrown lots. Today, several thriving blocks hold more than 60 new or renovated homes.

Through our Neighborhood Revitalization program, we also host day-long ‘Rock the Block’ volunteer events. These events bring communities together to improve neighborhoods through efforts like painting houses, mending fences, and improving landscaping.

Before selecting an area for Rock the Block, Habitat Omaha goes door-to-door along potential blocks, talking to as many neighbors as possible. The goal is to develop a relationship with every neighbor and attain 100% participation from the area. Once a block is selected, Habitat Omaha asks the neighborhood to ‘dream big,’ and a long project list is made. Volunteers from across the city join neighbors who work on each other’s homes, and the community comes together to make a big impact on the collective well-being of the neighborhood.

Habitat Omaha’s partners–like OPPD, Nelson Mandela Elementary School, Omaha Permaculture, The Empowerment Network and the City of Omaha, to name a few–are essential to making all of this happen.

Neighborhood revitalization efforts help to improve the quality of life for families across our community. In homes and across city blocks, you can see the impact of people doing good together. 

Blake has been with Habitat Omaha since 2010 and can see the change not only in the homes and neighborhoods that we work with but also in himself. He’s grateful that together, we’re helping people and our community.