Community Engineers Take Ownership in the East End

Posted on April 22, 2016

The East End is going through a lot of changes

For as many homes that are being renovated and empty lots that are being built on, there are twice as many homes and lots being bought or torn down to make room for new buildings and townhomes.

Many residents are uncomfortable with these changes. Some even think they will be forced out of their homes and a neighborhood they have lived in for generations.

Residents Karina Medrano and Liliana Aguirre saw how their community felt and set up a public meeting with Houston city councilmember Karla Cisneros on Feb. 25 to educate residents on minimum lot size. More than 30 residents attended, and a second session is planned in the future.

“Because they see a lot of changes, (the community) feels that they are going to get bumped out because they don’t know what their rights are as property owners,” Karina said.

Karina and Liliana are trained as community engineers – community members who are passionate about their neighborhood and knowledgeable in governmental structure. When an issue arises, they know who to contact, how and when to make positive change happen.

Both Karina and Liliana took the community engineers training three years ago at Ripley House and were instrumental in bringing Emancipet, a non-profit spay and neuter service, to the East End in 2015 to address the large number of stray dogs in the area.

“The city is there to help, but they don’t have all the responsibility,” Liliana said. “We all are responsible for making our neighborhoods a better place.”

Besides improving their communities, the training also helps each engineer personally. Liliana has developed strong negotiation skills, and Karina learned public speaking skills and found her own voice.

Through the training, “community engineers realize they are able to make changes; they can do it,” Karina says.

“And that makes them, and me, feel more empowered.”