Mental Health Professionals blog

Pennsylvania Celebrates Fairweather Lodge Day

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Note: This story is the first in a two-part series about the Fairweather Lodge program, written by Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (PRS) interns Brooke Bateman and Laurel Geer from Gannon University's Occupational Therapy program.

To honor the life and contributions of Dr. George William Fairweather, founder of the Fairweather Lodge (FWL) Program, the Pennsylvania General Assembly of the Senate and House of Representatives recently adopted resolutions to designate Sept. 25, 2015, as Fairweather Lodge Day.

This day recognizes Dr. Fairweather's efforts in developing a program that allows individuals with mental illness to take an active role in their recovery through community living, and also raises awareness for and acknowledges the many people who work together to make the FWL program a reality.

After devoting his life to integrating individuals with mental illness into the community, Dr. Fairweather died in January at the age of 93. To commemorate the man and his vision, several Stairways Behavioral Health Fairweather Lodge members and employees participated in the 31st Annual Fairweather Lodge Conference from Sept. 23-25 in Pittsburgh. 

About the Fairweather Lodge Program

The Fairweather Lodge Program was developed in 1963 to encourage homeless individuals who have a mental illness to be active in their recovery through a peer-supported, community-based, residential and work environment. The program was designed as a community living lodge to emphasize interdependence. People in the program live together, work together, and learn the skills necessary to function in a peer-supported environment.

In the FWL model, members have a say in the program, can live autonomously, have opportunities for advancement and fulfill expected social roles.  Together, these are factors that promote one of the aims of the FWL Program: to combat stigma associated with mental illness. Staff provide training, help the peer group to function well, offer individual and group support, and collaborates on individual goals. At Stairways, these functions are carried out by FWL management and PRS staff.

Eight concepts provide a foundation for the program and fidelity to the FWL model:

  • Provide a safe environment.
  • Promote good health and symptom management.
  • Provide long-term services for those who need it.
  • Promote productive work.
  • Create meaningful social roles.
  • Provide community culture resembling a healthy family.
  • Work to promote independence/interdependence.
  • Create and secure multiple resources.

Fairweather Lodge at Stairways

Tina Loomis is a PRS Clinical Supervisor and veteran manager of FWL. Kim Stucke, Stairways Chief Development Officer, helped get the program started in Erie and across the Commonwealth, and continues to provide administrative and funding support.

Stairways’ FWL Program started in 1999 with one lodge. “Five members were interviewed and then started their own janitorial business with a contract through Stairways,” Loomis said. At one point, the program had 57 members, and by 2005 it had 23 work contracts. Presently, there are seven lodges with a total of 41 members, including a 12-member Training Lodge, where members are provided with skill-building services through PRS as well as other support services.

After graduating from the Training Lodge, members move to permanent lodges or to other community housing. Permanent lodge members may or may not receive services, but are still FWL members and are supported by FWL/PRS staff  Tammy Young, Joe Crotty, and Amanda Ferguson. The FWL Program currently has one work contract through Opportunities Unlimited of Erie and many FWL members work in competitive employment in the Erie community.

For Loomis, the most important outcome of the program is that “individuals move from the (Training) lodge to independent living in the community and sustain their lives how they see fit. (The FWL program) helps them to get back a sense of themselves and realize they have power; it helps the powerless feel powerful again.”

As the FWL Manager/Coordinator, Tammy Young provides programmatic and direct recovery-oriented services.  She manages daily operations, interviews people who are interested in FWL, coordinates team meetings, communicates with community partners, provides support for social interaction and conflict resolution, and works with members individually to set and reach their goals.

“The lodge gives them a secure place to be, a sense of belonging so they can have all their basic needs met,” Young said. “They are able to grow personally, find meaningful activity, find out who they are, and learn skills that they need to live independently. For those who are ready for the program, the success rate is huge. We look at the person as a whole and give them the opportunities and tools to be what they need to be independent.”

Joe Crotty oversees the vocational side of the FWL Program and works with Young and the SBH property management team to support day-to-day Lodge programming for all seven lodges. He has worked with FWL Program intermittently for 10 years. For Crotty, the most important outcome of the program is its “individual personal growth.”

According to Joe, “The most important thing the lodge does for members," Crotty said, "is that it provides an environment and support, simultaneously, for individuals at imminent risk to prevent homelessness from occurring.

"It attempts to address skill-building and supports connection, as natural supports for the individual provide stability where there was not before.”

Above, right: Kim Stucke, Stairways Chief Development Officer and co-chair of the Coalition for Community Living, left, stands with the late Dr. George William "Bill" Fairweather, founder of the Fairweather model, during his visit to Stairways' lodge.

Next month: Hear from local, individual FWL members, in their own words

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