Next Saturday (May 22), I will be participating on a panel at the Women’s League of Voters Virginia Convention. Senator Monty Mason will be one of the panelists.
Monty attended an event NAMI Williamsburg hosted in 2015. The Coalition for Community Living had there mid-year board meeting and offered to give our community a short course on Fairweather Lodge. The Virginia Gazette wrote this piece.
Back then, I was harboring the notion that we could persuade organizations to implement this very successful “housing” program. We invited both state and local mental health organizations to join us. A number of caregivers of loved ones living with a serious mental illness.
Our persuasive ability failed. So, two years later we founded Hope Family Village and entertained the possibility that we could create a similar program, except not just one house, but a neighborhood that would embrace the principles and practices of Fairweather Lodge.
Building a brand new neighborhood is difficult. You need people prepared to leave their homes and financially commit to something novel. You need land. You need an architect, developer, financing. Sounds almost impossible, doesn’t it? Consider that you add $34,000, at least, to today’s cost of construction of the average home.
Neighborhood projects (25 -30 units) similar to ours in architecture can take 4 – 10 years to realize. You have to be patient. Very patient. And, persistent.
What do you do in the meantime? In our blog pages here, you will find we started a Fairweather Lodge Program. First, it was virtual. Then, we rented a home. Ours was the first Fairweather Lodge in Virginia.
What then is the future of behavioral health in Virginia?
I can only speak to the grassroots level. Serious mental illness. We address people living with mental illness who are medication compliant; ready to rejoin society, working and volunteering; and want to live together in a interdependent and mutually supportive way, in a house in a neighborhood.
We figured our how to do that. With a lot of help. A generous donor. A generous landlady. Committed founding lodge members. A lodge coordinator willing to donate his services to coaching the group.
In July, the lodge will have been in operation for two years. Six years out from when my fellow panel member joined our first session introducing Fairweather Lodge to Williamsburg.
For me the future is community. In our case, the Williamsburg community. A geographically small community that enables us to connect and accomplish very easily.
From my friend Father Micheal Pacella, and also familiar to our new board member Shannon Woloszynowski of House of Mercy, I recently learned another term for creating community.
In Catholic faith subsidiarity means: “… As far as possible, those closest to a problem should deal with that need or problem. The idea is that each person should have the opportunity to act personally as a sacrament of God’s goodness and provision to the world and so be able to choose personally to cooperate actively with the grace of God in order to be the grace to others.”
While I am not Catholic, shouldn’t we, as ordinary citizens, “insist that people closest to the problem should be the ones to fill the need or solve the problem.” ( Shear, Mark p., A Primer on Catholic Social Teaching. The Church’s Best Kept Secret, p. 80.)
Mother Teresa and her organization for all their accomplishments managed to honor their beliefs but serve all people, regardless of faith or non-faith. Diseased (leprosy, in particular) or not. Yet, even then, she describes her work as but a drop in an ocean.
A glimpse of my contribution to the panel is … the future of behavorial health care rests with local community. Those closest to the need and the problem.