What is a Fairweather Lodge?
A post by John K. Trepp
(JOHN WHO? - John K. Trepp is the Fairweather Lodge Movement's official REAL – which stands for Radical Element At Large. For 31+ years (1978-2009), John ran Tasks Unlimited, a non-profit which sponsored a steadily-expanding number of Lodges (two dozen by the time of his retirement) in the greater Minneapolis area, including Men’s Lodges, Women’s Lodges, Co-ed Lodges, Lodges exclusively for Moms with dependent children, and Lodges exclusively for ex-felons. Under John’s leadership, Tasks ran multiple successful businesses, providing lucrative full-time employment which allowed Lodge Members the option of working full-time independent of any form of disability. Though retired, John remains active in the Coalition for Community Living.)
To the casual observer, a Fairweather Lodge might look like a “group home,” in the sense that it typically involves a small number of people with some type of disability or diagnosis living under one roof. But a Fairweather Lodge is different, very different, from a “group home,” in 3 important ways:
- Fairweather Lodges are basically “unstaffed.” This forces the Lodge to be self-governing: “Lodge Members” make and enforce the rules (rules made by “staff” not around to enforce them would be easily ignored); manage problematic behaviors and inter-personal conflict; shop, cook, and maintain the house. Typically a “Lodge Coordinator” checks in on the Lodge periodically, but is rarely on-site for more than a few hours per week, and focuses their limited time primarily on Lodge Process rather than on individual Members. (In some cases, the “Lodge Coordinator” is themselves a former Lodge Member, with a diagnosis similar to the current Lodge Members.)
- Fairweather Lodges are “permanent.” At least in the sense that they are not time-limited. Lodges are not “transitional;” unlike “group homes,” they are “homes” in the true sense of the word. Lodge membership is entirely voluntary, members can leave anytime they choose, but generally choose to stay.
- The newest member of one current 4-person lodge in Minneapolis, has lived there 18 years.
- Within established Lodge Programs, the average length of residence is around 7 years.
- For comparison, the average American without a disability relocates more frequently than once every 7 years.
- Lodge Members are employed, actively-contributing members of their Lodge, and of the larger community within which the Lodge is located. Lodges typically assign various responsibilities necessary for the good of the Lodge to Members, and most Lodge Members are gainfully employed outside the Lodge.
- Most Lodges receive no on-going subsidies for housing, food, utilities, etc. Individual Lodge Members sometimes receive various disability payments, but most Lodge Members earn enough income from employment to cover their room and board expenses.
- And many Lodge Members have rejected “disability” in favor of full-time employment.
- Some current Lodge Members are formally retired due to age, but Lodge Members often choose to continue employment beyond age 65.