‘Not In My Backyard’ (NIMBY)

Thanks to Margaret Boyes and John Armstrong for sharing the following news article with me, concerning the proposed opening in a suburban neighborhood of a group residence for adults with addiction. In my reading, the article briefly raises several Social Role Valorization-relevant points:

• the wounds of rejection and distantiation; regardless of whether you agree with the neighbor’s concerns or not, the ‘not in my backyard’ thinking does often lead to further rejection of vulnerable people

• note that the proposed program location was formerly used “to house psychiatric patients;” once a building or site is associated with societally devalued people, it is highly likely that it will continue to be used as a human service site, even if the types of people served change. This phenomenon relates to imagery, including the history of a setting (PASSING manual, R1152, p. 121)

• the NIMBY reaction indicates the power of negative stereotypes, in this case surrounding people who are addicted

• although not mentioned in the article, one of the underlying factors often behind NIMBY is the relatively large numbers of people to be congregated in a particular location (in this case, 6 – 8 unrelated adults). This grouping size and composition is not consistent with the culturally valued analog (PASSING manual, pp. 30-31). Such congregation in combination with negative stereotypes is problematic for societally devalued people, and does not lend itself to personal social integration, societal acceptance, etc.

• one official in support of the proposal notes the hope that some people in the program would eventually move into their own place (i.e., potentially gain the valued social roles of tenant or homeowner, neighbor) and find work (i.e., potentially gain the valued role of employee).

What examples of NIMBY have you encountered? How might these situations be understood in terms of SRV/PASSING? What strategies of SRV could help to mitigate the problems of NIMBY? Send us your replies.

Marc Tumeinski

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