For the second year running, we hosted a group of new University of Montana freshmen at our Big Sky Experience site activity. We invited students to our beautiful Orchard Gardens property, where 35 income-restricted multi-family homes are situated on 4.6 acres near the urban-rural fringe of west Missoula. After a tour, we shared how we use sustainable methods to create homes throughout Montana, support renters in a tough market and strengthen Montana communities.

In addition to a presentation from Home ReSource about reducing waste and developing a more circular economy in Missoula and building a little free library and pantry to place at Orchard Gardens near the bike trail, we wove in discussions related to our work. In one of our discussions, we explored the meaning of home, part of our namesake and a concept to which we are dedicated. We gave students a simple writing prompt asking them to describe what home is to them. Here is how they responded:

Home is…

  • something that changes from person to person. To me, it means where I can be with my loved ones, including family, pets and my girlfriend. I don’t think it really should matter too much where it is as long as you have those close people near you.
  • the place where you have friends and family that you can trust and love.
  • a place where you feel welcome and where you want others to feel welcome as well.
  • a safe place to rest, recuperate and sleep. It’s also somewhere you are happy and feel welcome.
  • where you feel welcome and accepted and where your companions are.
  • somewhere people who I trust are. Somewhere clean and healthy. Home is full of people who care about me.
  • somewhere you feel safe. It’s a place with friends, family and contentment.
  • being with my friends and family, the people I love, doing the things I love, then seeing my dog at the end of the day.
  • where I can be myself around people I trust who support my dreams and well-being. Home is also where I can make memories!
  • a place, whether physical or internalized, where you are free to be yourself. It’s where you are at total ease and feel safe from judgment, prejudice and ideas of conformity. You can laugh loudly, cry freely and express yourself.
  • comfortable, cozy, safe, familiar, where my people are, with my dogs, warm, reliable, consistent, joyful, dependable.
  • being comfortable, with a feeling of contentment, knowing you are where you belong and can be yourself without judgment.
  • the four walls around you but also a congregation of people one trusts. Whether they are friends or family, they make someone feel safe and understood and create the warm feeling of home.
  • where my loved ones are, a comforting place to sleep, a place where I feel safe, a place that has a sense of community.
  • any place where I am surrounded by a community built on mutual love, trust, support and communication. I think that any place that has these things also has the capability to become a “home” to me. It can be any community where there is space for people from any walk of life to be accepted.
  • family, pets, good food, adventures, new experiences.

One student drew a quick sketch of what home means to them:

Sketch of a single-family home