What is Freestyle Volunteer?

(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.

cafe teaSo 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.

My coffee meetings occur during the day, in public places, and I avoid anyone who feels the least bit threatening. Beyond this, I refuse to let irrational fears rule my life. If I did, I’d never climb into a car (44,000 people died on American roads last year), and I’d tremble in the presence of family members, friends, and workplace colleagues, who media stories suggest are at least as likely to hurt me as are complete strangers. It makes no sense to me to set a special terror watch on the idea of nurturing, in public daylight, a mutually satisfying bond with someone needing companionship.
We’re already connected anyway. The very efforts we make on public streets to avoid people who are mentally ill or homeless testify that we have no choice but to sense a connection at some level. What we have free choice about is how the connection plays out.
True stories about Freestyle Volunteering are at How do people volunteer freestyle?, tabbed above. Please visit and let me know what you think!

One Response to What is Freestyle Volunteer?

  1. Aaron Colyer says:

    Thank you Judy for your truth, love, and encouragement for those you reach out to. When I was homeless you were one of the people that should genuine concern and interest in my life and in the life of those who needed someone to care. You are a shining example of the love of Jesus Christ, and I want you to know you have made a difference in my life.

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