**Companion Resources Newsletter**
edited by Paul D. Leichty
Volume 4, No. 9 September 2002
Greetings to all who care about community!
It seems that this month has been a busy one for me with many projects for the present and many uncertainties for the future. So allow me to simply give a brief outline of some current thinking about including marginal persons in community.
Persons and families become marginal to community life when there is a “problem person” who is different or who doesn’t conform with the norms of the community. If the community has trouble coping with this “problem” the common solution is to send that person (formally or informally, subtly or very intentionally) into exile.
Exile puts people on the outside or at least at the margins of community. Exile intends to preserve the status quo in the community by isolating the “different” person. However, exile changes the nature of all of the relationships among members of the community. By isolating the “problem” the community loses its opportunity to learn and to grow.
Exile places an undue burden on families, community agencies, and institutions. As long as these folks “do their job” to keep the “problem person” in exile, the community can turn a blind eye. However, when the needs become too overwhelming, the “problems” spill back out into the community. These problems may take such forms as expanding mental health facilities, more homes needed for persons with disabilities in “nice” neighborhoods, or overcrowded prisons.
Often the solutions given for these problems are either bigger and more isolated institutions or some new form of exile. Among the new forms of exile in the last number of years are small group living arrangements in out-of-the-way city apartments or expansive and impersonal suburbs. In this latter arrangement, we can claim that persons are “out in the community” while at the same time they remain exiled because of the increasingly impersonal nature of our North American living arrangements in general.
This kind of “solution” does not resolve the true underlying problem. Ordinary apartment dwellers can get on the subway and soon be a part of the action with friends downtown. Suburbanites can hop in their cars and meet their friends who may live an hour away at a restaurant half-way between them. Persons with special needs don’t have that kind of flexibility and mobility. They are “stuck” in their homes, separated from their wary neighbors by barriers that range from thick walls and peepholes in the doors to expansive lawns and strategically placed shrubs.
Once little communities of exile are created, it is not easy to re-incorporate the persons in them into the larger community. Marginal people don’t just come back into the center of community life automatically.
It takes a “bridge.” It takes a person, a program, a commonality of some kind to reach out to those who are marginalized. It means that someone at the center of community life must say, “I will find a way to reach out to someone else and help them find ways to relate to the larger community.”
I’ll discuss bridges more in future issues of Companion Resources. For now, think about the persons facing some degree of exile from your communities. What are some of the bridges that you can help create and use?
The Companion Resources website at https://companionresources.org is a beginning source of “bridge ideas.” Look up your area of interest! Let me know of other ideas you have that should be included!
Blessings as you continue to build community in your settings!
Paul D. Leichty
The Goldenrod Community
“People using Technology building Community”