This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending a Companionship Training, conducted by Chaplain Craig Rennebohm. The event was co-sponsored by the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention & Prevention and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Indianapolis. The training provided practical recommendations for cultivating relationships with people who are homeless. The event was well attended by Indianapolis citizens, in particular members of the faith community.
What is Companionship?
- A relationship
- Responsive to suffering
- Supportive of healing
- Offered in public
5 ways to practice companionship:
- Hospitality – Offer a comfortable space and beverage/food.
- Neighborhood – Instead of talking about who you are and what you do, speak about your community.
- Side-by-side – This physical stance provide a more intimate setting than a face-to-face discussion.
- Listening – What story is the person trying to share with you?
- Accompaniment- Go with the person for their next step.
Why it matters…
- Homelessness is an experience of suffering and isolation. A friend is an invaluable resource.
- We, as individuals, are part of something greater than ourselves. We are members of a community – shared with others.
- Unfortunately, we may socially learn to ignore homeless persons. Our natural instinct is to act on our compassion for another person. We need to be intentional about these actions.
- You do not have to be a licensed social worker or a nonprofit professional to make a difference in someone’s life.
Statistics on the Situation
- 80% or more of homeless persons have some history of mental illness
- 40% of homeless persons currently have a serious mental health issue
- 20% of homeless persons are dealing with addiction
- 20% of homeless persons have experienced abuse
- To be on the streets for more than 6 weeks creates a psychological stress response.
If you are interested in learning more, I encourage you to check out Craig’s latest book.