33rd Annual Fairweather Lodge Conference

Welcome to Hope Family Village. Now incorporated, we continue to move forward on many fronts.

Scott, Corey, and Matt

In late September, Matt, Scott and I attended the 33rd Annual Fairweather Lodge Conference in Erie, PA. There were 100 participants.

Organized and hosted by Stairways Behavioral Health, we were treated to discussions of veterans lodges; taught how to write a haiku; given ideas for finding a job; and learned the importance of being active and socially

Matt and Scott (left) @ Stairways Behavioral Health’s Training Lodge
Erie, PA

engaged for brain health.

These conferences are incredibly inspirational. We meet other agencies from around the country, lodge coordinators, and lodge residents.

As we seek to establish a lodge in the Williamsburg area, we visited a training lodge operated by Stairways.

In the meantime, we created a “virtual lodge” together. The Williamsburg Fairweather Lodge meets weekly on Saturday mornings at a coffee shop. Weekly meetings is one of the fidelity standards for having a certified program.

Aside from reviewing our weeks, setting and monitoring goals, and planning the next week, we are working on having a meal together. From recipe to shopping, budgeting, serving … we’re having a meal together. Exciting stuff.

Welcome to Hope Family Village!

By now, many of you have received our business card. You are coming to see us for the first time.

My name is W. Corey Trench and, along with others, I am one of the co-founders of Hope Family Village (Williamsburg, VA). (Ed. 12/12/17: President, Director of Hope Family Corporation 501(c)3.) Until we have an official web site, you have been directed to this blog, where we have been sharing ideas, visits, information about this exciting new journey that we are on.

In the way of background, we have decided to create a village, where neighbors help neighbors. Only,  our village caters to caregiving and support for family members who endure mental illness. By design, we are an inclusive group.  We are ordinary families and their loved ones, and quite possibly people who want to live in a place of acceptance, where understanding, caring for and about mental health conditions is a top priority.

We began with 7 families. Stated meeting about once a month for dinner to keep getting to know each other, talk about the most recent projects. Our idea, which grew out of a brainstorming workshop staged by NAMI Mid-Tidewater (April 2016) was 25 families living together on 25 acres, with a  multi-purpose common house, pathways, gardens and recreational areas. The homes might be regular single family, or condos, and incorporate tiny homes (or small condos). Above all else, we would mutually support one other and be willing to help a neighbor.

Why Hope Family Village?

In 1955, nationwide, there were 340 public psychiatric beds/100,000 people. People could have their family members placed in a hospital like Eastern State Hospital for care, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Care included therapy, medication, and training to return to the outside world. Families resumed their lives, their loved ones were permanently housed.

Today, there are only 11 beds per 100,000; the same as in 1850. (Source: Treatment Advocacy Center). Walk-in, out-patient care or assisted living are currently the best available options.

Many families (8.4 million, avg. age 54)) struggle as the primary caregivers; the wait time for non-emergency psychiatric help is often 90 days or more. (See: On Pins and Needles; Caregivers for Adults with Mental Illness, 2016).

How we change the scenario is to bring families together, create a community for self-care and support. Neighbors helping neighbors. This leaves already strained government resources to cater to those who are truly stuck in a never-ending cycle of poverty. 

Where will the village be?

Ideally, we have proposed to co-locate ourselves adjacent to the Eastern State Hospital, on the 400 acres that the state has had for sale. This past April, we met with Virginia Senator Norment and Delegate Pogge to introduce our concept. They both found our approach a creative and interesting way of addressing housing and care from a grassroots perspective. For us, pursuing this location is both logical and compatible with the the existing use.

You could think of our village as nothing more than a neighborhood, where neighbors care for their neighbors. Currently, we all live in other neighborhoods, separated from one another, except when we see each other at NAMI functions, for example.

NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a grassroots organization with members who offer care, conduct research, have family members with mental illness, and are people in recovery. There are 900 NAMI affiliates located around the country. NAMI educates, advocates, and supports.

How much will it cost?

Mason Business School of College of William and Mary has become a very important partner of ours. You will find a post here that describes a 6-month study they conducted. The outcomes of the project were numerous. The capital cost will largely depend on the cost of the property and the style of home. On the high end, our project consultants estimated $8.8 million (Update (12/17/17: Closer to $7 million, with a long-term property lease). The cost of the project falls dramatically if we consider employing homes that are not typical single family homes. There would also be monthly fees and pay-as-you go costs, as when we would share meals together at our common house.

We are early in the process and considering all options.

Importantly, we will be doing more work with the College, and working with the Alan B. Miller Center for Entrepreneurship to further develop the Hope Family Village business model and to identify key assumptions, test and measure their outcomes. Think of it as conducting small inexpensive experiments toward the realization of the full village. This project begins in August and will last for an academic year.

We are very excited about this and other connections and relationships that we are building.

Can I donate to this project?

Hope Family Village is now incorporated and has received its nonprofit status as a 501(c)3 with the IRS. (Updated 12/12/17) We have filed our documents with the Dept. of Agriculture and understand that, while approval is pending, we can solicit donations. Until we have a DONATE BUTTON, we received donations made out to: Hope Family Village, PO Box 982, Williamsburg, VA 23187.

(Previously, we accomplished projects and studies through NAMI Williamsburg. You can donate on-line or by mail. Some of our donors have indicated a preference to fund “the housing project”. We honor these requests.)


Hope Family Village Incorporates in Virginia

Hope Family Village has filed its application for incorporation in Virginia.

We have reserved several different web domain names. We have prepared the documentation for and applying for nonprofit status with the IRS. As soon as the Commonwealth approves our application, we file our papers with the IRS.

Our mission: Hope Family Village is a community-centric collaborative, offering acceptance, housing, and sustainable support for people with mental health conditions and their families. 

Fairweather Lodge Re-Visits Williamsburg

John Trepp (2nd from left), CEO of the Coalition for Community Living
facilitates discussion of Fairweather Lodge Residents (The Woodlands, Williamsburg, VA)

The Coalition for Community Living (CCL) returned to Williamsburg to give a presentation on Fairweather Lodge. This is the second time the board has come to town. This year they met at Colonial Williamsburg Woodlands Conference Center. The two-hour presentation was excellent. 

Audience for the three panel discussions

Longtime lodge residents of these homes were a crowd hit. They described their lives before and after joining a Fairweather lodge. (Currently, there are 60 lodges in operation around the country.) The audience was inspired by their stories. Who attended?  Local and state governmental leaders; NAMI affiliate families; peer and family support group attendees; W&M Business School; and the founding families of Hope Family Village.

W&M film students filmed the entire session. Here’s the link.

Afterward  we held a dinner, where residents, family members, community members were invited to get to know each other better. 

Hope Family Village plans to incorporate a lodge within their community design. Fairweather is a highly successful, research-based model and practice. We have been coordinating with CCL for two years now. Tremendously dedicated people work in this organization. If you are interested in knowing more, their next conference is in Erie, PA in September.

W&M MBA Completes Study for Hope Village

In August 2016, on behalf of our five families (from Williamsburg and Gloucester NAMI Affiliates), several of us (Tom Rideout and Allen Whitehead) put together a scope of work for an MBA Corporate Field Consultancy (CFC) Project with the College of William and Mary.

The Entire CFC Team

The project was extremely ambitious, but sought to have the 2nd year MBA candidate team become familiar with serious mental illness, needs of families and their loved ones, and cohousing, a form of neighborhood, then design a template for Hope Family Village, 25 families living on 25 acres on the Eastern State Hospital property that the state wants to sell.

The team was supported by two Executive Partners (former executive and senior management professionals) and a faculty advisor. All are pictured here. We thank them, from left to right: Issac Boateng, Pablo Otero, Petter Rapuzzi, Julie Campbell, Hayden Spencer, Brooke Waggoner, W. Corey Trench (the blogger, on behalf of an extensive client team), Chuck Owlett, and Kim Mallory.

What fantastic work they did. They worked very hard. We received three formal presentations from them and work products. The finale was mainly about economics. We were joined by 30 audience members, including NAMI families, United Way’s Home for Good Program, and Gateway Homes.

Now, we begin the work of design and development of this project. We seek stakeholders, more family participants, and funding sources. All will be much more realizable and sooner because of the work of this project team.

Best of luck with your future!! Your are going to change the world.

It’s Not A Hospital, Not a Medical Institution

Soteria is a home.

Explained in the piece is what people do when psychiatric hospitals are closed and there is no place left to go.

Hope Family Village is similar to Soteria Shelter Home in that we don’t have a place, yet. We meet monthly at a restaurant.

A W&M MBA Corporate Field Consultancy project team is researching and studying a co-housing approach and possible location for a project.

In this recent article (1/18/17), we see proposed legislation that responds to a constituency need to preserve home values and ensure neighborhood safety out of a fear for the arrival of a group home.

If one googles group homes, which are licensed by states, most newspapers articles will discuss the need for notification, regulation and oversight.  After reading them, it will become quickly apparent that living together in a home is rather difficult.

Moreover, does anyone want to live a neighborhood where they are under surveillance? Isn’t that what most of us want to avoid?

Sure, we want people to look out for us. We would want people to look out for each other. We would want to live in a neighborhood where we would do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

If we are closing permanent, chronic health care facilities, coming up with criteria for evaluating a group home, we leave no place to go, other than to live quietly in a family home, on the streets, or in jail.

Shelter is a basic human need. We must find it. Human connection and support is another basic need.  In all cases, if it is not provided, it must be created.

Indigenous Cultures: How are they like Hope Family Village

Phil Borges: Storyteller and filmmaker

Phil has done several TedTalks about a documentary (Crazywize) he has been working on for over four years.

He has been exploring indigenous cultures to learn what they might tell us.

This one (15 minutes) discusses serious mental illness over the decades. He shares some of the interviews they have preformed. The insights he has developed. Some observations about people and their needs.

He examines America’s serious mental health crisis. He gives us both the historical context and the difficulty medial science has had making definitive proofs.

What can we learn about from Phil in creating Hope Family Village? What critical observation does he offer that cuts to the core of society’s investment in, or lack thereof, in care?

Could it be community? Hope Family Village.

Minimalism: The Documentary

You’re going to smile when you see Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things. It’s on Netflix.

The main characters are compelling. They reach a point in their lives that it all comes together. What they do next just makes sense to them. They are not selling anything, except maybe a book.

Their first audiences mirror their own philosophy and they find the humor in it.

A couple of guys reflect on where they came from, where they thought they wanted to go, their arrival, and their subsequent complete change in direction. The movie treats us to similar observations made by others, including families and scholars.

In the end, it’s all about quality and our connections to each other. We are on a similar road.

Realizing Value at Hope Family Village

Home of Open Dialogue and Experiment in Basic Income

As we think through designing Hope Family Village, we know that the cohousing platform is ideal.

For a community to work requires everyone pitching in, in some way, to support their neighbors and their community.

What brings us together is the need for mutual support and desire for mutual acceptance.

We want to do more than survive. We want to thrive.

Countries like Finland and Denmark offer us practiced innovations that might help us in our design.

Here are two recent articles about a new Finnish experiment on basic income (1) and (2). Western Lapland is also the home of Open Dialogue, which has been very effective.

Quite naturally, we all want to realize personal value and satisfaction. How do you measure that? It’s different for each person. Certainly, we can realize satisfaction from producing something, creating something, or simply working together toward a common goal (e.g. growing a garden).

Maybe in the case of an extreme northern latitude, the conditions are so harsh, a need to innovate to realize the value from one’s life is bred.

In our case, Hope Family Village is an experiment. Our own invention.

We’re creating something new. We can be open to other ideas and approaches that may pragmatically fit our community.

Why Hope Family Village?

Paris Wiliams Experiencing FREE
Rethinking Madness, Author

If we ever pause to wonder why we are passionate about creating a “place” that we call Hope Family Village, this short documentary film (30 min) called Surviving Schizophrenia begins to explain why. 

Featured are Elyn Saks and Paris Williams, who are both well known to the survivor and NAMI communities. Varietal concepts are brought to bear by each actor.

Creating hope, that’s what we are doing: Something way different to a cookie-cutter approach to care.