When others are running from a problem, we are embracing it. Turning difficulty upside down into opportunity. We see what others might not. We take one small thing, a family dinner, demonstrate it, and show how it leads to another small thing. Eventually, you wind up with a neighborhood. A family of acceptance and respect. Unafraid of the future. That’s Hope Family Village. And, why you want to be here more than any place else. The welcome mat is out.
Let us show you something.
Yeah, it’s a preliminary, draft conceptual design for one prospective location at Eastern State.
We shared it with James City County Planning and Social Service last Friday.
The board has engaged award-winning community architect Laura Fitch at the toughest stage. The starting blocks. And, on a very quick turn around, combined with a snow storm.
We know terrain laced with obstacles.
Our Board member, Lisa Thomas, had the great opportunity to attend the Northeast Co-Housing Summit last month in Amherst, MA where she attended workshops about designing and running an intentional housing community. She also met with others living in existing co-housing communities or getting ready to launch their own.
The highlight of her experience was visiting Pioneer Valley Co-Housing, a community that started 25 years ago with a focus on social connections and shared experiences.
This multi-generational community of 32 families living on a six acre footprint includes a Common House, described as the “Living room of the community,” clustered homes, pedestrian walking paths, community gardens and outdoor recreational spaces. Each resident contributes to the well being of the community by volunteering 6-8 hours a month to organize activities, maintain the community, cook occasional shared meals, or other activities designed to bolster a sense of community support and connection.
The community encourages “random connection by design” with a carefully designed footprint that includes, public, semi-private and private spaces for all residents. Every neighbor knows everyone in the community, children play freely outdoors and often visit frequently between the houses, and members support each other through personal challenges, as well as celebrating small successes and major milestones.
The community is so popular, they have a long waiting list of families who want to move there and have opened up associate memberships for others to participate in community life while waiting. Residents own their own homes, but pay monthly fees similar to a Homeowners Association for maintenance and upkeep of the community.
After experiencing a weekend at Pioneer Valley and seeing how well this concept works, Lisa may well be the first to make a down payment on a home in Hope Family Village!
From April until the present has been nonstop for Hope Family Village.
On April 19 – 23, this villager was in Boulder, CO for the Western Region Cohousing Conference. I met many startup communities like ours; learned from cohousing architects and developers; and visited four different communities in the area. We were there to find out what it really takes to develop a community. In short, a lot of hard work by committed families.
The board of directors, along with our founding families, are in a learning mode. Taking Cohousing 101 seemed the most natural of first steps. The session on Marketing, though, was also very informative. Director Lisa Thomas, recently retired from an Williamsburg icon nonprofit, CDR, will be attending the Amherst, MA conference.
In August, Parade Magazine covered How America Lives: Creating Housing for Boomers, Veterans, Millennials, and More. We are the More. A MUST READ.
On returning, we had our board meeting, April 28th, then I was off on a 2-day visit to Virginia cohousing communities, Elderspirit in Abingdon, VA and Shadowlake Village in Blacksburg, VA. For different reasons, spending one-on-one time with members of both these communities and reviewing their layout was incredibly helpful. Elderspirit is a 55 and older community, located on a 3 acre plot, borders a gorgeous park and trail. Shadowlake is on a larger piece of wooded property, around 30 acres, and has younger families. In both instances, the communities completely understood our mission and had experience in caregiving for people with a mental health diagnosis. The heart of both communities is the common home. Mail, meals, and activities can be shared here.
In May, we concerned ourselves with the Virginia State Budget. An milestone for us, Hope Family Village Corporation was specifically named for a co-located project at Eastern State surplus property (400 acres). The two other projects are behavioral health and medical/dental services. James City County (JCC) leads the effort. We will be part of a comprehensive planning and rezoning effort. Several directors had a meeting with JCC officials to define our project and needs. Our plan is to develop one project for 25 families. The community will feature at least one Fairweather Lodge.
NAMI Virginia held their Leadership Conference and Annual Meeting in Richmond, VA in June. We offered a short workshop on our concept. Only, we presented from the vantage point of creating community. How would families go about taking care of one another? We handed out fliers about the project and picked up the names of interested families. We expect to draw families from outside the Williamsburg area.
In July, Bill McHenry, Lodge Coordinator for New Visions, Inc. (PA), George Duke (MD), retired commercial and industrial development investor, and Van Black (FLA) our intrepid supporter came to Williamsburg. We walked the Eastern State property; participated in a lodge meeting together; and met other potential partners in our project (e.g., House of Mercy).
Was August any slower? Yes. It was summer. We did manage our monthly family dinner. We are gradually sharing our story with more and more people.
Next up, while Lisa is in Amherst for the Cohousing Workshop and Conference, I will be in Minneapolis or the Coalition for Community Living Conference and Annual Meeting this month. Will be visiting Fairweather Lodges and a architect of eco-villages.
We know we are on a long road, but we will get there. 8.4 million caregiving families, just like ours, are counting on us.
Anyone who is interested in the community, please contact W. Corey Trench at firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome everyone. At Hope Family Village we are all about the dining. Why?
Our next dinner is Thursday, April 12th @ 6:30 PM at Jimmy’s in Norge, VA.
In developing not only our organization, the physical village, the social architecture, we know how important being on the same page really is. We share a vision and we are on a mission. Together. How we arrive is by giving everyone a voice in the design process.
For all of us, we know how important support groups have been in our lives. That’s how we met. Here, our families and loved ones in recovery bring tremendous experience. Whether it is lived experience or caregiving or coaching or research. We share a common bond to achieve value as human beings and know respect. We share without repercussion. We come to trust one another. We know that we are not alone.
Hope Family Village is another step forward in the creation of a physical neighborhood. You live among neighbors who look after one another.
Our dinners are social occasions to get to know each other better. Whether you join the physical or not, we welcome you to our community. You hear about the many that lie ahead. Join us.
Pictured is the future of Hope Family Village.
Maybe these graduating MBA and undergraduate students will do other things with their lives, but on Saturday they adeptly moved Hope Family Village forward by staging a grand event.
Graciously hosted at the home of Phi Gamma Delta, the Fiji House, brought together – by the current field consultancy team from the College of William and Mary’s Mason Business School Center of Entrepreneurship – were the brothers, family caregivers, our Williamsburg Fairweather Lodge members and stakeholders (House of Mercy, City Council). The present and future of hope.
What was the grand event?
Part celebration of the Virginia Senate Floor passing SB 30, the set aside of property for Hope Family Village’s 25-family community project. One step closer to a dream. Part conversation and fun.
Part breaking bread, cooking and sharing a meal together. Part creative exercises – involving the W&M student team, the brothers, and the villagers – to share with each other who we are, what we think and believe, what defines us, and why we are creating this very special place.
The student team learned about us. We learned about them. What we demonstrated is how easy and effortless it is to come together, work together, with a common purpose.Home, family, care, acceptance, inspiration.
It was a beautiful day.
We are excited to announce a new relationship with the William and Mary Law School, Business Clinic. This action serves to continue and expand our relationship with the College of W&M to develop Hope Family Village. As we progress, we see the College as a vital partner.
As noted elsewhere on this blog, Hope Family Family Village has enjoyed an extremely productive relationship with the W&M Mason Business School Corporate Field Consultancy Program and the Center of Entrepreneurship.
Recently, we met with two third year law students, MaryKatlyn Lukish and Taylor Basford, who will be supporting us in the startup phases of the organization. While we have already incorporated, received our 501(c)3 status, had our first annual meeting and elected our board, among other actions, we are engaged in a number of tasks.
Katie and Taylor will be working on a variety of legal research-based activities and making recommendations.
Last week, Senator Norment introduced an amendment to the Governor’s budget (SB 30) that sets aside Parcel C (79 acres) at Eastern State for Hope Family Village Corporation.
Our first design will be 25 families. We will feature a common house at the community’s hub, where residents connect with one another socially and have the opportunity to dine together. The community’s design will be tranquil and cater to pedestrians; maximize open space; and employ gardens. To start, we will feature two primary options, one for families, where their loved ones live with them. The second will be a Fairweather Lodge for people who are in recovery, who live together in a home, operated on the specific principles and practices. In addition, because we will be an inclusive community, one of acceptance of serious mental illness as a human condition, we expect clinicians, students studying for degrees in family counseling will want to live in the village. They will be similarly welcomed.
Hope Family Village
To say that things are happening at a dizzying pace would be an understatement.
Last Thursday, our five board of directors, and presentation architect, traveled to Newport News to present our story to Riverside Health System at their corporate offices. This was our first presentation describing who we are, what we have accomplished, and where we are headed.
We told our story, which began in 2014, with the simple idea of creating a neighborhood. As the letter to the editor describes, we asked questions about the fate of Eastern State surplus property (400 acres) in terms of behavioral health care. At the time, our idea was not to create Hope Family Village, a new nonprofit. It was to inspire.
Naively perhaps, we expected a white knight to surface. Offer something different. Innovative. That treasured valuable lives and all that they had to, and do, offer this world. These are our family members and friends who endure mental health conditions. Suggested was one geographic place that integrated housing, work, treatment access, lifelong learning, social connection and coaching. A village.
You have to travel back in time to find the last comprehensive national approach to mental health care in America. The mid-1800s and Dorothea Dix.
As with many great ideas, once we institutionalize them, something changes. Often lost is the vibrance and reason we decided to take action in the first place. The result: we de-institiionalizationed to reaffirm civility, humanity, and respect. The new options and results for many who visit us here are known and unsatisfactory. We were left with complaining that not enough was going done. Care had been lost.
Yet, when we looked around the world, and the United States, we found innovation everywhere. Practiced on a small scale. Serving a very well a small number of people. That’s why these solutions tend to work. They are small and manageable. Certainly, technology can help provide connection, but can we truly replace a live human being caring for another?
The problem is much greater than the our imaginations will allow. Scientific America (July 2017) blogged that studies in New Zealand, America, and Switzerland report that almost all of us are touched by what we label as mental illness. In most cases, it’s a temporary experience. Conservatively, somewhere in the range of 3 – 5%, the condition is permanent. Of this population, only 40% receive “treatment” in a medical and therapeutic sense.
The staggering figure, and, again, conservative, according to the principal investigator, is the number of caregivers of loved ones with a mental illness. It’s 8.4 million.
Our presentation described our answer. Grassroots, bottom-up, ordinary citizen caregiver thinking and acting.
Fairweather Lodge + Cohousing Community = Hope Family Village.
That’s oversimplifying a bit.
Riverside was our first presentation and they were generous with their feedback and ideas. The hospital exemplifies what we seek: Collaborators to join us in building options that are real and last long beyond us, the founding families.