The Art of Hosting

Dear folks,

I would very much appreciate your wisdom on hosting conversations where many participants are mentally ill, have drug addictions or very limited confidence in speaking due to lifetimes of abuse or grinding urban poverty.

My few years of AOH practice have mostly been with middle-class folk who are educated, know the basic social 'rules of engagement' and are used to being speaking in groups.

The particular instance I'm involved with at present is a group of very marginalized people, mostly singles, who live in rundown rooming houses, have below-poverty line income, have drug and alochol addictions and a huge anger & mistrust of "authority". With help of advocates, an atttempt is being made to involve and engage these folk in creating their own community self-help drop-in centre against enormous odds and with no money!

I'm not the facilitator. The one who is asked to facilitate from time to time, uses time-worn, strategic planning methodologies that don't go deep at all and leave the population I mentioned completely out or include them in only token ways. She also insists on 1.5 hr. meetings. Finding meeting space that will tolerate some of the participants' behaviours is also a challenge.

Myself, I have a long background in working with these folk and know what can be elicited when enough time is given and the right means are used. But even though I've offered my services, the "establishment" has yet to invite me in. So I offer what I can when I can.

Thanks for any input.

Salut from Canada!

Cheryl Lyon

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