Community Power: When ‘I’ Becomes ‘We’

Collective recovery through shared experience
Written by Hayden Duncan

Collective recovery through shared experience

Watching a human disaster unfold in Eastern Europe makes us think hard about what really matters. For me it shakes the foundations of the three pillars – community, family and a home. Leaving all three of those behind to face the unknown in another country must be overwhelming and harrowing. Families traumatised, communities smashed and homes destroyed makes me think about my own sense of entitlement, my humanitarian duty, Emerging Futures’ social responsibility and, inevitably, what and who we prioritise.

Support for displaced people

It’s uncomfortable to link the two situations, but we see individuals in our housing projects daily who are disconnected and detached from those three pillars of survival. Many are displaced from their own communities, disengaged from family life and unable to sustain a tenancy. Many of our tenants are forced into homelessness when they leave prison, care or the army (which at least provide a surrogate community), with no home to go to. Many women experiencing homelessness have survived a violent or abusive relationship or, increasingly, people can simply no longer afford the rent. Life events like a relationship breakdown, losing a job, mental or physical health problems, or substance misuse make reconnecting with community and family difficult to achieve.

Emerging Futures works across the country with people affected by homelessness, drug and alcohol problems and mental health needs. We try to combine community-based housing with structured therapeutic support to motivate and inspire people to take control of their lives. Our behavioural change programmes and coaching help people build resilience and self-worth, develop positive relationships and reconnect with family and others in their local community.

Shared experiences

People in distressed communities need opportunities to share their experiences. Personal recovery from trauma, substance misuse and life events can translate into collective recovery where individuals see their story as part of a larger story that changes “I” to “we”. By creating recovery communities, making meaningful connections and deploying asset-based community development techniques, we may be able to go some way to alleviating the pain inflicted by meaningless conflict.

Nothing good comes from war but maybe we can find a greater realisation that we all need the same things – someone or something to love, somewhere safe to live and something to do.