Individuals, non-profits and homeless shelter directors who wish to follow the intentions of this “Good Neighbor Agreement” innovation of 1986 to engage the whole community in mutually beneficial service WITH the homeless can take the intentions of this process to a new level. We can expand the process of meeting the needs and aspirations of a homeless shelter and their residents, volunteers and mentors from neighboring residents and businesses, without the fear of litigation from unforeseen events and accidents by learning the history intention of this policy, what has worked and what needs innovations and creating a new protocol and precedent that takes community responsiveness and quality of life for all, to a new level.
Quotes are taken from the documents posted on cpn.org/topics/environment/good neighbor.html. Occasionally I have added extensions of application in parentheses, which are my own. You can read these references in full context on this site.
The actual meaning of the CNP acronym is omitted from any documents I’ve read, however one website says it stands for “Civic Practices Network,” among 79 other CPN organizations. The important thing is how they Identify their origin and purpose as “Born of the movement for ‘new citizenship” and’civic revitalization.’ CPN is a collaborative, non-partisan project dedicated to bringing practical tools for public problem solving into community and institutional settings across America.” “We are community organizers, civic journalists and youth activists…business people and civil servants working collaboratively to create safe and sustainable local economics.”
The Civic Renewal Movement came up with the “Good Neighbor Agreement: A Tool for Environmental and Social Justice” in 1986 to provide an “accountability strategy… to combat environmental pollution for each county to preserve it’s environmental integrity and raise living standards…” The living standards we are concerned with, now, is creating a caring community that is responsive to the mutual need to establish and maintain a base living standard that includes a significant, and now growing, segment of citizens who have bottomed out on their personal resources: jobs, income, skills, housing and shelter, purpose for living and HOPE. The purpose of these “Good Neighbor Agreements” is to “build responsive relationships,” and an “accountability strategy” for all segments of the society, even those that have been historically swept under the rug, like dirt on the floor, out of sight, out of mind.”
Behind this development is the recognition that “statutes are often passed as piecemeal in reaction to a highly publicized crises, (and often result in a ) checkerboard of conflicting, confused over-regulation for some activities and gaps” for others. And in 1992 Mr. Lewis of CMA (Chemical Manufacturer’s Assoc.) developed an alternative model of “Responsible Care” in responding to a community crisis. It encourages “members” to form “advisory panels” to encourage “Socially Responsible Investing” in projects that offer solutions for and/or preventions of these crises. These panels were in-house and “self-policing” in evaluating how, and to what extent, manufacturers and corporations were living up to and fulfilling their agreement commitments. They tried to improve that model by moving the panel to the public, but were still filled largely by ‘hand picked panel members” from the company’s “friends,” and thus became suspect in their
By merely adding, in ( ), our target population and specialty to the following statement, it could be clearly written about us:
“Good Neighbor Agreements are instruments that provide a vehicle for community organizations and corporations (volunteers, mentors, service and advancement minded homeless, homeless shelters, businesses and neighbors) to recognize and formalize their roles within a locality…to foster sustainable (human) development in a community, (so that) human health (dignity and potential), environment, labor resources, and the capitol resources and materials within local communities would be treated in a manner to ensure their continued viability for the long term.”
In support of the goals of this Agreement process, there are some provisions that relate directly to us, who are trying to engage the public community with the homeless community for mutual benefit.
1. Community access to information: Facility should file agreements as public record, and provide the Library with all policies and programs of that facility.
2. Right to Inspect facility: Hold an initial “Town Meeting” on site when introducing innovations, and continue to hold periodically, so more people can relieve concerns and fears while becoming informed and inspired to participate in the process.
3. Accident Preparedness: Make plans for all foreseeable events and accidents, making the plan known to all, and summarized in each agreement. (ie: If injuries occur during construction of micro pods, or medical/detox emergency, 911 will be called, or the individual will be transported to EMR)
4. List benefits of your program to both the public and homeless communities
5. Citizen Group Concessions Panel: A group of volunteers, selected by various interest groups in the public and private communities (I suggest: a member of the city/county commission, 1 neighboring business owner, 1 neighboring resident, 1 representative of a local agency/non-profit currently serving the homeless, 1 representative of the faith community currently serving the homeless, 1 legal consultant, 1 member of the current resident’s community, 1 member of the working homeless community, 1 representative of the fully functional, recovered homeless community.) to whom disputes will be submitted for resolution and mediation, instead of resorting to litigation.
“Draw up Agreements, in consultation with the participants of specific types of services, that evolve and change according to the needs of the community and motivating force to agree… Many may require that each party negotiate and perform, their obligations In Good Faith.”
These agreements should be submitted to the advisory committee for review, approval, and/or modification as advised.
I suggest separate agreements for the following combinations of participants in the following possible services.
General Agreement between Volunteers and the Representative of the Refuge on the benefits and safety features offered the volunteer in return for their services and the relationship and behaviors expected by the volunteer. If there is a class to better prepare volunteers to diffuse and redirect any undesirable behavior or conflicts, that should be specified here.
- Business mentors who would give refuge tenant- apprentices the opportunity to evolve into sustainable positions in the job market by working their way from unskilled to semi-skilled to skilled and potentially licensed positions, advancing via skill development and initiative, with b refuge tenants applying for the opportunity & c administration of the refuge
- *Neighboring residents and businesses who may ask for assistance in certain basic and vital needs such as yard or street side maintenance or clean up +b & c
- Senior services in private homes, or institutions, such as reading to them, helping them write letters, etc.b & c.
- Minors, between the age of 16 and 18 may participate in potentially hazardous volunteer work, when permitted by their parent’s signature. I would encourage families to volunteer together, for various services. It gives the parents assurance that their children are safe, and it nurtures the opportunity of putting spoken values into action, thus making them real.
After reviewing this “Good Neighbor Agreement” document, I called the source of the document and asked about it’s extension to the circumstances of engaging the homeless and community in mutual service, and mentoring. They said they had no experience with it, and did not know how it would be implemented or received. Following that, I spoke with numerous agencies, from the Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services, to Human Relations. and Dept. of Commerce, to HUD. And not a one could offer any reason that any agency would object to this mutual protection from liability, especially when these mentors and volunteers are offering Humanitarian and Community Services to a needy and marginalized population.
The two requisites that I see would be only offering this opportunity to Refuge Tenants who have been diligent in working their way through the sequential developmental/ educational stages offered by the Refuge/Shelter. Through successfully completing these steps, they will have confirmed their capacity for courtesy, trustworthiness, and responsibility. Through applying themselves to various levels of community service, they will have shown the ability to apply themselves to learning new skills, and initiative. They will be assessed and guided into businesses for which they have shown interest and aptitude.
The clear limit would be when the level of mentoring and expertise got to the point of entering a knowledge and skill set requiring specialized training for licensing. This could be easily addressed through a mutually satisfactory transition into entering a trade school certification program on line, or taking community college classes, or specialty courses part-time, while continuing to give higher levels of service to the mentoring business. An agreement could be reached that addresses the stages at which increasing stipends are paid, and/or banked to apply toward continuing education fees. When an apprentice has achieved a skill level of a valuable employee, he/she and the mentor/employer can negotiate a beginning salary with scheduled advancements, or the apprentice is released to apply to another business, with the experience and training gained and a good recommendation of the business owner.
Some examples of Relative Good Neighbor Agreements in connection to serving with the homeless.
The following may serve as examples of some potential agreements that would facilitate the atmosphere of mutual dignity, responsibility and assistance.
Entry Level Agreement: Entering a “full service” homeless shelter.
a. If the shelter is a “Come As You Are” shelter that provides basic safety and shelter to (almost) any and all.…
The ——(name)———-shelter at —(location)—- agrees to offer you, —-(name) —,a homeless individual, a secure and safe place, out of the weather and harm’s way on the streets. We will provide space on a mattress bank, a blanket, water, one meal and snacks, until you can achieve sobriety and qualify to be enrolled into our full service refuge. The two genders will sleep and rest at the opposite ends of the common area. If for any reason you become physically or verbally violent, the police will be called, and you will be removed, immediately. After that, you will not be allowed back into the preparation area for at least 3-6 months, depending on the degree of violence exhibited while in this preparation shelter and the evidence of remorse and correction evident.
If you go into “detox” convulsions, or show signs of distress that are a threat to your health and well being, or the safety of others in the shelter area, 911 will be called, and you will be taken to the hospital, or appropriate alternate facility. You will be allowed to return and apply to the refuge community, if you are sober and the addiction has been corrected.
If you choose to leave the preparation shelter for any length of time before you can be enrolled into the Refuge Community, you will not be allowed back under shelter for 48 hours.
In exchange and gratitude for this safety and security, I, —-(name) — agree to be peaceable and quiet. I understand and will abide by the rules and consequences, making every effort to become sober, so that I may enter your full service refuge community.
signed: ________(name____________________________date: ________
signed: ________(name) __________________________date: _________
authorized representative of the (named homeless refuge facility)
b. If the homeless refuge facility does not have accommodations for those
homeless, not yet sober and ready to enter the full service, transitional and transformational facility. Or, for those who have become sober in the preparation shelter are ready to apply for the beginning level of community life in the transitional/transformational refuge....
This example, and others will be developed, including for Mentors and Local Mentoring Businesses, General Volunteers, Youth Volunteers, etc.