As we made spiritual progress, it became clear that, if we ever were to feel emotionally secure, we would have to put our lives on a give-and-take basis; we would have to develop the sense of being in partnership or brotherhood with all those around us. We saw that we would need to give constantly of ourselves without demand for repayment. When we persistently did this, we gradually found that people were attracted to us as never before. And even if they failed us, we could be understanding and not too seriously affected. (As BIll Sees It 220)
One of the most inspiring projects I have seen recently is Iris Place, the new peer-run respite that just opened in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Iris Place is a program of NAMI Fox Valley, which I serve as board vice president, and it is one of three such peer-run respites supported by grants from the State of Wisconsin’s mental health reform budget package.
Here’s a taste of how the staff of Iris Place describe their work:
Peer Run Respite Centers are crisis alternatives with the intended outcome of diverting hospitalization by building mutual, trusting relationships between staff members and users of services which facilitate resilience and personal growth.
As people have an opportunity to stay connected to peers while moving through challenging thoughts, feelings and impulses, the need for external intervention is diminished. This alternative approach to handling crisis teaches people healthier attitudes about themselves and others.
There is an economic benefit to the peer-run respite model — the average cost per night at a PRRC is $250 compared with $2,500 for a day of inpatient hospitalization — but more important is the willingness of a community to come together in support of those who are hurting.
The partnership extends beyond the Certified Peer Specialists who staff Iris Place 24/7 to include the Iris Place Advisory Board, which includes local government officials and law enforcement representatives, regional mental health and healthcare providers, and neighbors.
Unlike the two other peer-run respites in Wisconsin that have run into zoning issues and NIMBY concerns from local residents, Iris Place is blooming in the Fox Cities, which have proven to be the right community.
There’s even a lovely sense of rightness to the location itself.
Iris Place is housed in the former St. Bernadette’s Convent and supported by the generosity of the parish.
Though it’s not explicitly stated, entering the house unfolds in the classical monastic way: guests who call ahead are greeted as they arrive, and if the fit is right, they are invited to join their peers in the “enclosure” for a brief stay.
Iris Place is one example of peers helping each other through the common difficulties they face.
How might you “develop the sense of being in partnership” with those around you?
In what way are you called to “give constantly of [yourself] without demand for repayment”?
I welcome your responses in the comments.