The calendar says it is still summer and I am trying to go with that thought! But school has started and our summer interns (much to our sorrow) have left until we meet again! Dante from CEO’s of Tomorrow (a fabulous organization!) and Audrianna from North Western University have left their impact on our hearts and minds. Also, our long time staff person Grant has moved on to a new phase in life which includes moving to a new residence (a work still in progress) so we are feeling changes in our family of friends as well as the weather here! In Wisconsin, we know we will have seasonal changes. We can count on them as we journey through life too! On with next steps!
(Pictured below, clockwise from top left: Karen, Grant, and Karin; Audrianna and Rosemarie; Dante, Karin, and Audriana on their first day; Grant playing Farkle on a lazy Saturday at the house; Grant cooking; Karin, Brad, Dante and Audrianna moving office furniture)
Full disclosure here: last spring I began to feel like the challenges of moving our next phase of development forward were very close to impossible. A thorough review of complicated and interwoven policies needed to be done by an expert to find a path for moving forward. Thanks to our friend and retired attorney, Tim Radelet, the 200 hour review was done--pro bono! And we believe he found a path!
Some of you know that when Paula Reif and I started working on developing the TIIN model, we were told that we may never see it happen in our lifetime. I remember being told, “no one is even thinking like this! You are up against established ways of thinking and policies that will probably have to be changed before this development can happen.” We have been at this since 2002 and it now looks like we are only a couple of big challenges and a building development process away from seeing this completed project to fruition! Many challenges are beyond us—as were many of the challenges we have overcome. This project has involved help from many great people at crucial points in our journey. Sometimes we needed encouragement, sometimes expertise and sometimes money. And the help has come. A community is building this community! And that is what the whole project is really about—people working together to make life better for themselves and others!
Sometimes when I tell people about the TIIN model, they tell me they've heard about another project just like ours and I get hopeful--thinking that someone has already found a way to deal with some of our roadblocks. However, when I look into it, I find very important differences. It makes sense at these times to wonder if we should change the project to fit into current policies. However, the changes required would not allow us to accomplish our primary goals.
Although special funding exists for senior and affordable housing, the funding defines the number of housing units required -- generally favoring large developments and facilities. However, we believe that small, staffed, diverse intentional and intergenerational neighborhoods can reach people in a way that large projects for a defined group cannot. When we have opportunity to know people’s stories, gifts, talents and struggles, we can help them as individuals. And we can develop long term intentional and committed relationships. Our approach is dramatically different when compared to established approaches, like a large high rise for people of a certain income level, or a large nursing home where everyone is fit into a predetermined and prestructured program of care from a constantly revolving staff. Institutional approaches vs. our TIIN approach is like the difference between fast food and garden to table gourmet food! Or if it easier for you to imagine, one size fits all clothing. This would not be a useful approach for most of us. It is true that we all have basic needs, but to flourish in life requires understanding each individual's needs to create individualized goals, approaches, purpose, and long term belonging --staff are needed when people are frail or vulnerable.
There have been a number of books written in the past few years that have gone into some depth on issues the TIIN model was designed to address. Hillbilly Elegy is one of them. This book is a great read by someone who has navigated upward mobility. The author, J.D. Vance brings up the many issues he confronted as a child turning adult who had lived in domestic violence with an addicted mother, a culture of poverty and was confronted by the policies that were designed to help. Vance eventually graduated from Yale Law School but knows that he remains at a greater risk to screw up his life than people that grew up in the middle class. The effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the lack of role models for effective problem solving continue to take a toll on him. He states that without guidance from key people at key times in his life he could easily have derailed his path to success. As I read the book I was encouraged to see that his recommended interventions paralleled our TIIN approach. He wrote:
“So I think that any successful policy program would recognize what my old high school’s teachers see every day: that the real problem for so many of these kids is what happens (or doesn’t happen) at home. For example, we’d recognize that Section 8 vouchers ought to be administered in a way that doesn’t segregate the poor into little enclaves.” page 245 J.D. Vance Hillbilly Elegy
One of our goals with the TIIN model is to address financial diversity by living in financial diversity. Part of the mission is to bring people of means into a neighborhood with people possessing a strong desire to move forward in life, while also experiencing current financial need. We believe older adults and families with young children are uniquely equipped to help each other flourish. Older adults that are interested in reaching out to mentor and love young parents and their children can offer a life-time of wisdom to people interested in listening. And young people can help older adults in many ways. The TIIN adds support services that facilitate intergenerational exchange. Currently, many large affordable housing developments are built in low opportunity neighborhoods while senior housing is often built on the edge of town. In the words of one of Vance’s former teachers, Brian Campbell;
“When you have a large base of Section 8 parents and kids supported by fewer middle-class tax-payers, it’s an upside-down triangle. There are fewer emotional and financial resources when the only people in a neighborhood are low-income. You just can’t lump them together, because then you have a bigger pool of hopelessness.”
(Pg. 245 Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance)
Many of us have also witnessed hopelessness in nursing homes. When we define and group people into a category, we tend to see a problem. In a Therapeutic Interactive Intergenerational Neighborhood (TIIN) young and old use their strengths to help serve each other’s needs. Everyone is helped and helpful. Everyone lives a goal directed, creative life--together. The TIIN model sees people as potential! Staff provide expertise and guidance when requested and they oversee programs that empower people to help each other grow. Staff can help with goal setting, problem identification and exploration of potential solutions. In the TIIN everyone can experience purpose and belonging. Isolation and its detrimental effects are removed from the equation as people share life’s ups and downs. Older adults stay healthier with new purpose and young people can learn the otherwise untaught information needed to move forward in life. Everyone has the opportunity to flourish as generativity is experienced at its’ best. When we can help others, meaningful roles provide purpose, belonging and build self-esteem.
Vance writes about missing out on an opportunity once because he did not know what to wear to an interview. However, by the time he was invited to an interview in a fine dining atmosphere, he had the good sense to excuse himself for a bathroom break to call someone he knew to ask what he was supposed to do with the nine pieces of silverware at his place setting! He writes that he was fortunate to receive and listen to guidance at key times in his life. He also writes about the people that had enough faith in him to help with networking when he was applying for jobs. As a successful adult, he still feels like a work in progress. He talks about people that were;
“. . . my first real exemplars of a happy and loving marriage. There were teachers, distant relatives, and friends.
Remove any of these people from the equation, and I’m probably screwed.”
Vance wrote about Jane Rex, who runs the transfer students’ office at Appalachian State University;
. . . she’ll tell you about the stable family that empowered her and gave her a sense of control over her future. And she’ll tell you about the power of seeing enough of the world to dream big: “ I think you have to have good role models around you. One of my very good friends, her father was the president of the bank, so I got to see different things. I knew there was another life out there and that exposure gives you something to dream for.” Page 239
The TIIN model includes housing for healthy seniors, families that desire mentoring and support to move forward and housing for frail elders and people with developmental disabilities and their staff. Together we live as a family of friends in a neighborhood that embraces diversity and cares for each other in a creative, goal directed, green, welcoming neighborhood.
Today my friend, neighbor and alderperson Barbara McKinney came to share breakfast on the porch and a walk in our memory garden (pictured below). She told me that she left feeling refreshed--like she had been on vacation. That is the peaceful, hopeful and happy kind of place we are developing- just as soon as policies line up and the fundraising is done! 2020 would be a great year to start building in my opinion! Here’s to praying that the final hurdles are soon to be conquered!
Happy late summer!
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Written by members of the Hope & a Future community including residents, volunteers, and staff.