Good Neighbor House: Reimagining Settlement Houses for 21st Century Communities

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Edward Polson
Laine Scales


Community practice, Settlement house, Community, Faith-based organizations


Scholars have documented many challenges facing communities in the 21st century including increasing inter-group conflict, declining levels of social trust, growing skepticism of institutions, and diminishing public resources. Such challenges threaten to weaken social ties and undermine relationships at the local level. We contend there is a significant opportunity and a need for the development of innovative models of community practice which emphasize bringing residents together and strengthening mutually beneficial relationships in neighborhoods and communities. Moreover, we believe Christian community practitioners and faith-based organizations have unique contributions to make. In this paper, we propose one faith-based model, a reimagining for 21st century communities the settlement house model that first emerged in the late 19th century. Drawing on the history of the settlement house movement and the experiences of one faith-based house in Texas, the Good Neighbor House, we explore and suggest strategies for Christian community practitioners in 21st century communities.

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