How It Began

My name is W. Corey Trench, President, Co-founder and director of Hope Family Corporation 501(c)3 (Williamsburg, VA).

In 2014, a group of caregiving families of a loved one living with serious mental illness met through NAMI . Our education led us to identify common concerns, both as caregivers and peers in recovery, particularly about permanent housing, with structure. We researched multiple options and practices from around the world. Subsequently, we 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, their loved ones and friends, and quite possibly people who want to live in a place of acceptance, where understanding, caring for and about mental health conditions is the top priority.

We began with 7 families. Started 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.
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?

On Eastern State Surplus Land (400 acres). In March of 2019, the Governor of Virginia’s budget sets aside 25 acres for a $1 lease specifically for Hope Family Village Corporation (Item EE). In 2017, Virginia Senator Norment introduced our concept in the form of a budget amendment. He 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 existing use. Eastern State is the home of the oldest mental health institution in North America, pre-Revolutionary War.

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 over 1000 NAMI state and local affiliates around the country. NAMI educates, advocates, and supports.

How Much Will it Cost?

In August 2016, Mason Business School of College of William and Mary became an 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 community design, exact location, infrastructure and any other requirement. Our project consultants estimated $8.8 million. 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.

Concerning the project, we have a preliminary concept design and development packet. We have met with James City County (JCC), State Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBDHS) and the Department of General Services. All is moving forward (March 2019).

Importantly, we have continued our 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. A recent project emphasized starting with one home, employing the Fairweather Lodge model  and progress toward the village. We will open the Williamsburg Fairweather Lodge in July 2019 (the first lodge in Virginia). As we progress, we plan to share with other NAMI affiliates, in Virginia, how we did it.

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

How Can I Donate?

Hope Family Village is incorporated and received its nonprofit status as a 501(c)3 with the IRS. We filed our documents with the Dept. of Agriculture and can solicit donations. To donate, please visit this link. Funds are invested in establishing and developing the Fairweather Lodge and defining the Hope Family Village project. As a startup, with significant accomplishments, currently, we have no paid staff. We operate with committed board members and volunteers.