(Freestyle Volunteer: an organization providing resources to help volunteers form one-on-one companionships with individuals who share our public spaces but who are socially isolated by mental illness and/or homelessness.)
Thousands of people in my city who are ambulatory, articulate, and otherwise capable of a social life are isolated from mainstream society, just because they have a mental illness or are homeless. Long-term isolation will damage anyone’s sense of balance and integrity, and public services can’t satisfy the human need for personal connection.
So I choose one individual to meet with every week for one hour of coffee and conversation at a cafe. I also enjoy irregularly scheduled coffee hours with people I meet who live in tent cities.
If you decided to Freestyle Volunteer in this way, you wouldn’t need specialized knowledge about mental illness or homelessness, or about available resources. Your job isn’t to solve someone’s problems. It’s just to sit and listen and talk over coffee for an hour. Over time, this interested attention can add up to a transforming gift. And the atmosphere of the public spaces that Americans share would brighten if millions of us each chose just one person needing company to have coffee with, one hour per week in this way.