Fear is a driving force in many decisions, as it was when a non-profit group wanted to open a homeless shelter in this residential neighbourhood. But, often, fear is simply lack of information, and the best way to combat fear is with facts. Mediation that focuses on informing the parties (education) helped allay residents’ concerns and promote a resolution that benefited all parties.
On hearing that a homeless shelter might open in their neighbourhood, a community group voiced their concern. Would this impact the safety of their children? Would it decrease property values? They are, essentially, afraid of the issues and challenges that the home might bring to their community.
Without community support, efforts like this are virtually doomed to failure. The community group and shelter representatives agree to mediation. During the process, the residents learn a key piece of information: because of the proximity to other social services, there are a number of homeless people in the area already. The shelter would not cause or exacerbate any problems – it would help solve them.
Issues the residents notice now, such as loitering, would be addressed because the homeless population would have a safe place to sleep, eat and take part in community building through belonging. Disruption to the neighbourhood would be greatly reduced and possibly enhanced.
In this case, the goal was of the mediation was education, and the process facilitated positive results. When given all the information, and having the opportunity to be heard, the community eventually embraced the shelter. Several members became volunteers. This allowed the shelter to expand its programming to include literacy classes and a community garden.
While they initially jumped to conclusions, these residents were willing to put their fear aside and listen to the facts. They saw how the shelter could benefit their community as a whole, and many found that it enriched their lives personally and they offered their time as volunteers. Information was the key to this resolution.