COMMUNITY-BUILDING IN GROUP HOMES
There are four stages that the people who live in a community residence or an institutional building go through to develop a community that seeks to meet the needs of each individual, as well as to allow growth for both individuals and the community as a whole. In the case of a community residence, it is often the role of the staff and service providers to create a climate in which such development can occur.
The first stage is pseudo-community.1 At that time, all things seem to be going well. Everyone has his "best foot forward" and everyone is completing both the tasks and the personal responsibilities that make for a smoothly running living environment. The members attempt to be an instant community by being extremely pleasant to each other and avoiding all disagreement. This is the honeymoon period; it is often accompanied by a recent transition or a major change that makes the community a new experience.
Gradually, this tranquil community becomes more real, as the members begin to feel more secure and individuals behave more normally. Once individual differences are not only allowed, but encouraged to surface in some way, the group almost immediately moves to the second stage of community: chaos. At this stage, instead of trying to confront and cope with differences, the group is attempting to erase them. Ordinarily, there is one staff member, or possibly even a client, who attempts to smooth over the surface and ignore the uncomfortable feeling that exists with conflict. This usually does not help matters, but instead creates more tension. This stage is very difficult, and, in community residences, this is the time when staff members begin crying for help. "Why has everything fallen apart?" In reality, this stage can produce real and meaningful change and growth. We have to remember