the blog this week was written by Jennifer Goodwill, Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute. This blog is the first in a series explaining aspects of Community Brokering. As a Community Broker with The Arcadia Institute, I spend time with individuals learning about who they are, how they spend their time and what they dream of doing in the future. Knowing a person’s story today helps us as we support the individual in planning for their life in the future. We spend time with the person asking questions like: what does your daily routine look like? What things are you doing that you enjoy and what things would you like to change about your life? Who are the important people in your life? This time that we spend together leads to a Personal Future Planning gathering. At this meeting, we invite the important people in a person’s life to come together and listen to the individual share their story and talk about their dreams for the future. As a group, we identify the person’s strengths and think about places in the community where they may pursue their interests and use their strengths. We conclude the meeting by listing actions steps to take the individual from where he is today, to where he wants to be in his future.
One of the first people I worked with in Community Brokering was Ron. When I first started meeting with Ron, he was homeless. Obviously, finding a place for him to live was a top priority when we talked about his future. We immediately went to work looking for an available and affordable apartment for him, but we also spent time talking about his daily routine and who he knew in the community. Ron and I went around town together and he introduced me to the people that he knew who were supportive and encouraging of him. We talked to Tom, the store manager; Ray, an organizer of the Wednesday night community dinners at First Presbyterian Church; and Joe, the friend of a friend who was helping him find housing. We set a date for his Future Planning gathering and invited these individuals to attend and help Ron imagine the possibilities for his future.
The night of Ron’s Future Planning gathering, Ray and Joe attended, along with Ron and his Supports Coordinator. Each of the individuals at the meeting knew Ron and were supportive of him, but had never met together. Being together in the same room allowed everyone the opportunity to hear directly from Ron about his interests, dreams and the challenges he faced. The group shared with Ron the strengths and skills they saw in him. And then together we laid out action steps to support Ron in achieving his goals.
This group has continued to meet with Ron on a regular basis. When Ron struggles, these individuals help Ron get back on track and find solutions. For instance, Ron was able to move into an apartment with a roommate on a trial basis. His friend, Joe, had talked to a landlord about giving Ron and his roommate a chance at renting one of their apartments. Unfortunately, Ron’s roommate let someone else move in with them and the neighbors complained that too many friends were visiting. The landlord did not let them stay beyond the trial period. Ron’s group spent time talking with him about where things went wrong and discussed ideas to avoid similar problems in the future. This group has also celebrated with him when he achieves his goals. With the help of his Supports Coordinator, Ron was able to lease an apartment of his own. Seven months later, Ron is settled in his apartment, has a cat named Smokey and is getting to know all of his neighbors. Now that he has a place of his own, Ron is able to focus on his future. He is a regular volunteer at the First Presbyterian Church. He has helped out at the Salvation Army and the Humane Society. He stays in touch with his friends who are homeless, sometimes bringing them home cooked meals and encouraging them to join him at the Wednesday night meals. Ron is a giving person and an important part of our community.
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