Monday, December 15, 2014

More from Ben's Hope: bringing people together

Here is more from Benjamin's Hope, a planned community housing project for adults with autism and other developmental disabilities in Holland, Michigan.

The following article appears in the Ben's Hope 2014 Winter Newsletter. The inspiration for the project and what it hopes to achieve is reflected here. It dispels the notion that communities like Ben's Hope isolate people from their surrounding community and that congregate care is inherently discriminatory against the people who live there. For more information and background on the ideological battles that Ben's Hope has had to endure, see these blogposts (here and here).

Why Do They Come?
There is something exuberant about life around Benjamin's Hope

Sunday evenings in the summertime found 100+ people worshiping together, under a tent. September's Firelight festival welcomed more than 1,000 friends from all over Western Michigan to enjoy hayrides, music, alpacas, and bonfires. And, by mid-winter, 24 people will call Ben's Hope home.

Benjamin's Hope is bringing people together.

The impact of Benjamin's Hope stretches far beyond the men and women who have chosen to live here. We see evidence of it in the people who come. Classrooms from West Ottawa Schools, kids from Camp Geneva, quilters from Christ Memorial Church, and students from Hope College. People young and old. People with disability and people without. Which leads me to ponder, what is the common draw? Why do they come?

Consider the tag line below our logo. "A Place Where We All Belong." This is our answer.

Life runs at a frantic pace. We gauge a day's success by what we have accomplished, our worth too often determined by how we compare to the person next to us.

Is it any wonder that we yearn for a place where we are accepted not for what we do, but simply because we are?

Ben's Hope beckons us to come just as we are. It gives us permission to slow down. From the moment we turn in the drive we are greeted by the Ben's Hope sign assuring us that we have found a place where we all belong.

Awhile back I received a Face Book message from Elizabeth. Elizabeth and her support dog, Mitchell, regularly attend our weekly worship service called The Gathering. Her words beautifully express why she chooses to spend time at Ben's Hope.

"…The Gathering is the best hour of my whole week! I can be around people like me and people who love people like me and I don't have to hide who I am for a whole hour. I love being there. It feels like home, ok?"

So many of you have helped to create this extraordinary place that is so much more than bricks and mortar. Thank you. Benjamin's Hope is an oasis that waters our soul and reminds us to press forward in Hope.

In case you might be wondering, I do not have any personal stake in the success or lack of success of Ben's Hope. Some advocacy groups have virulently opposed any and all congregate settings, expressing a fear that this type of living will be imposed on others with disabilities who do not want it. I have not heard anyone involved with this or other family-initiated housing projects express a desire to impose their will on others and I suspect they have neither the time, influence, nor energy to do so. --JB


Toni Sergeant said...

I just started following your blog and have read all articles re: Aacorn Farm in Kalamazoo and now Ben's Hope. My 27 year old daughter has participated in the day program with Aacorn since the Fall of 2013. This week I received a notice from her CMH caseworker that she can no longer use her self-determination allowance to participate or even for mileage to get there. I would love to share a little about my daughter's story from inclusion all through school to now Aacorn Farm. A community where she has and continues to flourish and grow. A community where I in no way, shape or form feel she is being excluded from anything but instead has found an answer to both our prayers. This choice must be available. Regardless if someone has a disability or not - there are always those that march to a different drummer. Finding a place that just "fits" is amazing. My daughter does not happen to have Autism but DD. At Aacorn farm she has found kindred spirits that I hope she is able to grow old with and continue having a meaningful life. If at anytime that was to change, I would be the first to facilitate a change. Thank you for sharing your blog.

Jill Barker said...

Toni - I have lots of questions about what you were told by your CMH caseworker about why they will no longer pay for Aacorn Farm. Did she give you a written notice explaining why they will not pay that included information on how to appeal the decision?
If the CMH is saying that Aacorn is not in compliance with the new HCBS rule, they are wrong. The state has not made any determination as far as I know of any setting being out of compliance.
I am very interested in finding out more about this. You can call me at (734) 996-5561.
Thanks for your comment. If you would like to write more about Aacorn Farm and your daughter, I would be happy to put it on my blog.