The Mental Health Chaplaincy began in 1987, as a response to an increasingly visible number of homeless, mentally ill individuals on the streets of downtown Seattle, Washington, a city of almost 500,000 inhabitants. The chaplain walks a daily route through the city center and nearby neighborhoods, doing outreach and engagement with homeless, mentally ill individuals who have lost contact with care or who have no services. Outreach and engagement includes the four stages of approach, companionship, partnership, and mutuality. The aim is to share the journey from the street to stability within the community assisting individuals to find and use a variety of healing resources, and to foster the capacity for welcome and hospitality in the community, and to establish long-term, neighborhood scale patterns of care. The Chaplaincy works with clusters of local congregations, assisting in equipping churches to become centers of support with those who have experienced major mental illness. A healthy neighborhood includes those who are most vulnerable, stigmatized, and liable to be on the margin. Neighbors will be willing to share in the healing journey with a gift of themselves and their experiences, wisdom, hope, and faithfulness. To address the systemic causes of hopelessness, and maximize the healing capacity of neighborhoods, the Chaplaincy has also been involved in a wider process of community education and organization around the needs and issues faced by those of us who struggle with mental illness. The Chapliancy has been criticized as utopian but takes heart from the example of Geel, Belgium, with a 700 year history of neighborhood care for the mentally ill.
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