Casey Pilgeram, John and Samih Gammal
On the Path to a New Community
Casey Pilgeram couldn’t say where or when she first heard about cohousing, but one night in the car as she drove home, the word popped into her head with a startling clarity. She and her husband, John Gammal, had already decided they would be moving to the Northwest, but had been slow to take action on their decision. Casey was certain she wanted to live nearer to her family in Sandpoint, Idaho, particularly after the recent birth of their son, Sam. Spokane seemed to be the right place, too—close to Sandpoint and family, but with the opportunities of a more urban area. But she and John were reluctant to leave the close community they’d built in Chicago. Casey, 30, had lived there since age 18. For John, a Chicago native, moving meant he would leave friends he’d had since grade school.
What if cohousing was an answer to their concerns about community?
With the idea of cohousing firmly planted in her mind, Casey got home, searched online, and quickly located some communities in Western Washington—not exactly where they hoped to land. When she contacted them, they weren’t accepting new members. With more searching, including exploring listings in a national cohousing directory for Montana, Idaho, and surrounding areas, Casey was surprised to discover another listing for Washington.
Haystack Heights was in Spokane, in the Perry neighborhood—the one neighborhood she and her husband had both felt drawn to on previous visits to Spokane. Not only was Haystack Heights still accepting members, they hadn’t even started building yet. With a few more clicks through the Haystack Heights website, Casey was flooded with relief and a sense of fit. “This is why we haven’t moved yet,” she thought. “We needed to find this place.”
The sense of rightness continued as Casey learned more.
Meeting with Mariah and Jim over the phone, first to learn more and then to begin the membership process, Casey and John were taken aback by all the loving energy that had already been invested in creating the Haystack Heights community. Reading the bios on the members page, Casey imagined what it would be like to live with the people she saw there. “I saw a group of impressive people that I knew I would learn from, just by opening my front door,” she said.
Casey and John were particularly moved by the idea that Sam, their six-month-old son, would have the opportunity to grow up in an intentional community, where practicing compromise, connection, and belonging would be normalized. “We believe that community is key to unlocking our potential as humans,” Casey said of herself and her husband. “We see cohousing as a chance to put our beliefs into practice.”
Within two weeks after finding Haystack Heights online, Casey and John made a down payment on their membership. Casey visited the property for the first time on Thanksgiving weekend 2018. She continues to feel that a life in the Haystack Heights cohousing community is exactly what she wants.