Where the Community Comes Together

    There’s a place in every community where people congregate to exchange ideas, socialize, pray, engage, or just plain hang out. Those places aren’t home; they’re not work; they’re the point at which the community comes together. 

    These places are essential in local democracy, according to Ray Oldenburg, an urban sociologist at the University of West Florida who coined a phrase for these places—“third places”—in The Great Good Place, and we’ve explored the idea and the importance of these places both on Rooflines and in Shelterforce. But these places are often hard to identify from a distance, particularly when assigned a mildly academic term like “third place.”

    So, as we plan ahead for an issue of Shelterforce on this topic, we asked you: Where do you socialize in your community? To no one’s surprise, the responses were varied and went way beyond the list of options we provided.

    (Click image to enlarge)

    Friday night high school football games, commuter rail platforms, bus stops, church, the community pool, senior and youth centers, and the farmers’ market, were just a few spots you mentioned. What makes these places hubs for social interaction? How do they serve the community beyond their explicit purpose and transform into a key component of a vibrant community? Tell us in the comment section below.


    Matthew Brian Hersh served as senior editor at Shelterforce from March 2008 to October 2012. He studied English at Rutgers University and has spent his professional career in journalism, policy, and politics.


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