White Paper: A Model for Strengthening Community in Trauma Affected Neighborhoods

Trauma Informed Community Building: A Model for Strengthening Community in Trauma Affected Neighborhoods

A white paper published by BRIDGE Housing and HEI/SF State presents a new model for strengthening high-poverty, challenged communities as part of housing transformation efforts.


  • Jessica Wolin, HEI Associate Director for Community Practice
  • Emily Weinstein, Director at Potrero Community and Housing Development
  • Sharon Rose, MPH, Writing Consultant

About the paper: 

Trauma Paper CoverAcross the country efforts to revitalize low-income and public housing are underway as part of large-scale community development initiatives that seek to alleviate poverty and improve neighborhoods.  Neighborhood conditions affect both an individual's mental and physical health; research has shown that low-income and public housing residents experience high levels of trauma due to daily stressors of violence and concentrated poverty as well as historic and structural conditions of racism and disenfranchisement (Collins, et al., 2010). Ongoing trauma can have lasting adverse effects that compromise an individual’s mental health and overall well-being. (Luby, 2013; SAMHSA, 2012). 

Trauma can also undermine “readiness” for individual and community change -- the extent to which community is prepared and inclined to take collective action on an issue (Oetting, et al., 1995). For community development initiatives in these neighborhoods to be successful, a continuous process of identifying community needs and developing the assets to meet those needs is needed (Green and Haines, 2007). There must also be a community building approach that factors in the trauma that residents experience and acknowledges their emotional needs. 

In this paper, a model of Trauma Informed Community Building (TICB) is presented. TICB is a new model that addresses the challenges trauma poses to traditional community building strategies. TICB strategies de-escalate chaos and stress, build social cohesion and foster community resiliency over time. This model is based on BRIDGE housing corporation’s experience doing community building work over the past five years in the Potrero Terrace and Annex public Housing site in San Francisco. The work in Potrero is part of San Francisco’s HOPE SF initiative, a public-private partnership led by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office to rebuild some of the most distressed public housing in San Francisco. The TICB model effectively takes into account the real-life experiences of low-income and public housing residents. Read the full paper to learn more about the model