MILWAUKEE — A healing space is described as a place that evokes feelings of serenity, calm and relaxation. The City of Milwaukee launched its Healing Spaces Initiative last year in response to the isolation felt by city residents as a result of the pandemic. The goal is to use city-owned vacant lots to create the space, while also transforming blighted areas with benches, flowers, picnic tables and more.
Kacee Ochalek is the Community Outreach Coordinator for the City of Milwaukee Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation (NIDC). "HSI builds spaces of rest and relaxation for residents who don't always have access to green space as immediately as we want them to, and so this project helps connect residents to green space," said Ochalek.
Five resident groups across the city have been selected this year and this group is part of the Metcalf Park Community Bridges.
"Our community is dealing with a lot, there's a lot of traumatic things happening, even going through a pandemic right and being isolated too. We just had our meeting for the visionary of the Healing Space that's going to be installed this summer right here on 36th Street, right off of Center Street," said Melody McCurtis, who serves as the Deputy Director and Lead Organizer for Metcalf Park Community Bridges, Inc.
The residents met with representatives from NIDC, Groundwork Milwaukee and the Green Team to outline how they would like this particular space to look.
"Some of the ideas we came up with is like having a seating area, cooking area, a fire pit, electrical outlets so that with the healing process we can have meditation music," said resident Minnie Hicks.
This block in particular has witnessed the unthinkable. This past January, at the house right next to the future healing space, a 41-year-old woman was tragically killed in a domestic violence crime and the victim's 14-year-old daughter survived by jumping from a second-story window to avoid the perpetrator.
"We're still processing that, we're still grieving that and we're still healing, but how can we do that together?" said McCurtis.
What's really special is that the healing space will not only create a sense of comfort, but also be accessible to everyone. The timeline for the completion of the project is this summer and fall.
"It's important for us to have a space where our community can gather, can heal, can love and can connect, right in our own backyards," said McCurtis.