Intentionality – a clear and specific therapeutic purpose – is the core starting point of intentional communities with a therapeutic objective. With it, things are achievable that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Without it, the potential of community for those who are disabled is frittered away.
This was underscored again for us when we did a survey of seven such intentional communities – two for those with serious mental illness, two for those struggling with addiction, two for the developmentally disabled, and one for those with Alzheimer’s.
It goes without saying [we wrote in our report] that common to all of these examples is the power of community and the importance of feelings of belonging and of connectedness that go with it.
However, it’s not vague, general community that is operative here, nor even tolerant, purportedly inclusive, high-minded, and well-designed community. The operative factor here is intentional community. It is intentionality that is central to all these examples – the intention of helping those with a serious mental illness, or the developmentally disabled, or those…struggling with addiction – an intentionality which is the very premise of the community to begin with and, even more importantly, around which the community is structured and its programs are designed.
This brings us to the proposed Riverview Village.
In December 2015 B.C. Housing, acting for the provincial government in the renewal of the Riverview Lands, issued a “vision” document for the Lands that included a village – a “complete community,” as it was described. It talked about those with mental illness being accommodated within neighbourhoods that include a diverse mix of other residents.
That sounded good, but only as far as it went. Something absolutely critical was missing: a commitment to creating the community as an intentional community for the benefit of the seriously mentally ill. Without that intentionality, those with serious mental illness would slowly be marginalized and, even more important, the profound potential for the mentally ill of an intentional community would be lost. The unique opportunity for improving their quality of life, made possible by the availability of the Lands, would be thrown away.
The Riverview Village Intentional Community Society (RVICS) pointed this out in a detailed written response to B.C. Housing and is continuing to press the case.
There has been much delay by the B.C. government and B.C. Housing in the interim. As of April 2020, a confirmed direction for Riverview has yet to be announced.
For an overall view of intentionality at work, see RVICS document on intentional communities, “Intentional communities with therapeutic or developmental objectives.”
The importance of intentionality was a major issue in an RVICS’ document addressed to B.C. Housing, see “Making the ‘intentional community’ explicit.”