The Center for Peaceful Solutions worked with The INN (Interfaith Nutrition Network) over a one-year period. The INN is the largest organization that fights hunger and homelessness on Long Island, New York. The INN is a volunteer-based organization with volunteers who help coordinate the donations and distributions of food, clothing, and toiletries to those they serve. It is estimated that the INN feeds about 5000 Long Islanders each week.
Working on the front lines of serving Long Island individuals living in poverty, The Inn staff has witnessed that guests who are homeless often display a variety of other challenges such as substance abuse, psychiatric issues, social behavior issues. Our experience shows that when working with vulnerable people, interaction between guests in need can be challenging if left unattended and can pose risk to staff, volunteers and the guests themselves. Our grant from the Porticus North America was used to address Conflict Resolution using Restorative Approaches in our soup kitchen, The Mary Brennan Inn, The Centre for Transformative Change and our Homeless Shelters in Hempstead, Long Island. Working with the Centre for Peaceful Solutions we received training, supervision and mentoring in the Dialogue Road Map and its applications in staff to guest support, peer support, conflict intervention, mediation, dialogue circles, restorative circles and facilitation.
We projected a general calmer atmosphere at the Mary Brennan INN. We hoped that by giving guests an opportunity to air their grievances, to be heard and a way to communicate their unmet needs, they would be less frustrated and better equipped in navigating their stressful lives and accessing much needed services.
There has been a reduction in the frequency and number of eruptions and outbursts because guests are seeking out the service (from staff and volunteer conductors) before reacting in a conflict situation and/or before a conflict situation escalates.
Guests are learning and practicing how to show tolerance across major lines of differences resulting in connection where normally there would be a barrier.
Guests are demonstrating the ability to be more mindful of how they communicate with others. Guests have attributed progress to the Restorative Circles
Guests are empowered to help other guests meet their unmet needs despite obvious differences resulting in a unique human connection.
Guests feel safe reporting conflict situations.
What has worked for our guests have been Dialogue Road Map ‘Barefoot’ Mediation where a trained Conflict Conductor intervenes to de-escalate a confrontation and works to find peaceful solutions, and the Dialogue Road Map Restorative Circles where guests are able to find connection and emotional safety through facilitated group sharing. We would like to see more emphasis on the Restorative Circles, given that guests have benefitted greatly by the weekly meetings as evidenced by anecdotal stories as well as the guests’ consistent attendance.
“I experienced firsthand how a person in a highly agitated and angry state will de-escalate immediately when the principles of Dialogue Road Map and the Conflict Resolution Training practices are employed. I attribute my ability to handle this situation safely while maintaining dignity and respect for our guest to my learning and training with Maria Arpa.” Volunteer at the INN
Jean Kelly, Executive Director of The INN in Hempstead, NY shares her experience working with Center for Peaceful Solutions: