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 (12/17/17Closer 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 Entrepreneurshipto 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.)

Announcing Hope Family Village

It’s official!

Hope Family Village (HFV) was born at Nick’s Spaghetti and Steak House in Gloucester Point, Virginia on December 1, 2016.

You have been directed here from our web site address. Thank you Phil Trench for helping me do all of this so painlessly. Bear with me, it’s not an elaborate site. More important, we started.

HPV has five co-founding families. They came together from the NAMI Williamsburg and NAMI Mid-Tidewater affiliates of NAMI Virginia. We discovered a shared interest in permanent housing for ourselves and our loved ones. Together, we have explored the cohousing and Fairweather Lodge models, practices and histories. Since July of 2016, we have been holding monthly dinner meetings to develop our vision. Last week, we picked an identity.

People will be shocked at what a small number will accomplish on a problem that has been wrestled with for all of mankind. We will bring something new to real mental health care. Imagination. A blending of the best practices in the world. What it will ultimately cost, as well as achieve, will be thought not to be possible. Hope Village is something new.

We imagine a neighborhood that accepts mental health and its care as our principal priority. The College of William and Mary, MBA Field Consultancy Program, five second year students, two executive partners, and a faculty advisor have been conducting a study to help take an idea and turn it into a reality. They have done excellent work. It’s been a wonderful collaboration. The study will conclude in March of 2017. But, we plan to continue this relationship.

Currently, we believe, the first project will be constructed for 25 families.

More to follow.

Hope Family Village Presents to Riverside Health System

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.