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.)