Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Boarding home?
Boarding homes are privately owned, for-profit housing that tend to house people who have been involved in psychiatric care. Rent is very inexpensive and often includes three meals a day. There is usually a staff person on site who cooks the meals, cleans, and often dispenses medications (although they are not health care providers). The houses are scattered across our country, emerging in response to the deinstitutionalization of psychiatric facilities.
*we do not own or operate boarding homes, we simply visit the residents in the homes and provide on the ground community support*
Who are the Residents?
The residents of these homes are children of the living God. They are blessed and a blessing. Residents provide a warm welcome for church visitors. They can range in age from roughly 18 to 90. Residents come from all walks of life. They encourage visitors with their wisdom, wit and spiritual insights. Many have come into the home after being released from psychiatric care. In any one home, there can be between six and forty residents. These people are brave in the face of illness and isolation they often experience. They are vital members of our communities.
Who are Team Members?
Our volunteers have come from churches, historically Presbyterian and United Church members, and nowadays we have volunteers of diverse backgrounds (just like the communities we serve). We consider their work to be more than :volunteering", because there is a spiritual nature to our visits: we don't just offer companionship, we share a reverence for each other as unique and gifted beings. To be part of a team is therefore a vocation. It is a holy calling. To be in communion with residents is part of our spiritual vocation to embrace the world around us. Team members offer deep respect for the homes and the people they are visiting, and humble gratitude for the opportunity to be together.
When are the Visits?
These are arranged in consultation with residents. They can be of an afternoon or an evening and usually last one and one half hours. Most teams visit every second week.
What is the Purpose of a Visit?
Teams and residents form a meaningful, community through deep and mutual commitment. The purpose of these visits is to participate in a gathering where people and their holiness are taken seriously. Together, teams and residents flesh out the spiritual connection which is there to discover in any human encounter.
Are the Visits Terribly Sad?
With illness, and poverty, are the visits totally sad? No. Residents are charming and funny. There is a lot of laughter. There will be kidding and jokes just like in any company of friends. Affliction must be faced at times, it is part of life. It should, at times, weigh us down, and will. We can take it. But in a spirit of mutual devotion there can be more. And so, the tone of visits is usually quite upbeat. (Pity is not on the agenda). On top of that, there can be that mysterious, gracious, sacred joy, which may rise out of the sad realities of illness and poverty. Visits are alive.
Does the Visit Have an Agenda?
Team members do not visit as clinicians, social workers, psychologists or case managers. Therefore there is no clinical agenda to the visit. We do not conduct assessments of people's symptoms or shortcomings; rather we look for what is good in one another. The real agenda was neatly summed up by one of the residents, it is: "to celebrate God and people". And so, this new gathering reflects, sings, talks of life’s issues, or sits quietly together and prays in an atmosphere which is relaxed, sincere, gentle and healing. Visits will not likely be healing in any clinical sense, but will help to heal emotions and gulfs that can keep us apart.
Who is Responsible for the Team's Ministry?
In the case of a congregation that wishes to form a team: BHM can assist a congregation in forming a team, but it is the congregation itself which accepts responsibility for the recruiting and supervising the team. The congregation takes ownership of this expression of lay ministry. The congregation will help provide funds necessary for the team’s seasonal meals, activities and for other expenses.
Some teams consist of a mix of people from different faith communities and backgrounds. These teams are just as responsible for reflecting together and supporting each other.
BHM will screen team members to insure that they meet the very high standards required for the proper care of vulnerable people. Our Chaplains are available to guide team reflection, offer support, and hold debriefs if need be. All of our volunteers must have up to date training in safety and boundaries (the template we use is the PCC's Leading with Care for responsible care of vulnerable people).
What Can My Role Be?
Please consider bringing the ministry to the attention of your faith community. Perhaps a new team can be developed, or, an annual fund raising project can be created to help further the work of BHM. Please pray for this wider ministry and for those beautiful people in our neighbourhoods who live in boarding homes. They have much to offer.