A serious problem of our society and age is the
lack of suitable
support for young people struggling through the transition from adolescence to adulthood.
Many of the small nuclear families which are typical of today's society seem to be inadequate in their attempts to cope with and help adolescent
striving to attain maturity. And
few families today have the supporting outer fringe of grandparents, aunts and uncles who were available in the past to draw off some of the "heat" which inevitably builds up
between parent and adolescent.
The Viking Houses program is designed specifically for adolescents who have decided they can no longer live in a foster home, group home, treatment centre, adoption
home, or with their own families (however much they might really need both family
and parents) and are seeking some source of support in the community of a non-family, non-parental nature.
and female adults are employed in each house to provide a co-operative communal
environment for three or more sponsored adolescents. The structure of each house varies depending on the adolescents in it and the adults operating it. The adolescents participate in setting the life style and nature of relatedness between one another and the adults in each house. It is a non-institutionalized, co-operative style of living with the staff
from time to time introducing as much fami-liness with each person as he or she can accommodate.
adolescents are encouraged and helped to participate in the daily life events of
the house: shopping, housekeeping, shared activities. The emphasis is placed on bringing out the strengths and capacities
that each adolescent has available, or potentially available.
There are three general provisos as preconditions for all staff and adolescents in Viking Houses. Drugs are not used, al-cholic beverages
not consumed, sexual relations not permitted, within the house. These three restrictions are set, not in parental fashion, but
out of the reality that the living arrangements — to provide security
— must be constant, reliable, acceptable
to community standards and safe from being "busted" by the police.
Group and individual talks and discussions are carried on by the adults in the house to provide an informal learning environment. Professional group therapists are also available
to come to the houses, on invitation,
for more structured talks geared to specific problem solving.
The Viking Houses program is geared to deal with all the demanding problems of adolescence, including normal adolescent
emotional problems, but not deep psychiatric personality disturbances. The program
is | intended primarily for adolescents
16 years and older. It can help adolescents who fit the description "emotional
disturbance and neuroses of adolescent adjustment", first offenders, unmarried mothers, sexually acting out youngsters, kids experimenting with drugs, adolescents suffering from
severe family crises — death, separation, hospitalization of parents, or
serious breakdown of adolescent-parent: relationship.
Viking Houses has started its program in Ontario, but is prepared to discuss the establishment of such houses in any community. The model developed can be copied
and Viking Houses will be very pleased to consult with interested persons on how to proceed with setting up a similar program. Enquiries should be made to Browndale International, P.O. Box 125,
Newmarket, Ont., Canada.
We thought it might be helpful to share with readers of Involvement the following preliminary statement on communal living by John L. Brown which was given to the staff of the Viking Houses program.
John Brown talks about
Communal living has
been a part of man's experience from the beginning of his existence and no other form
of living has failed more miserably, nor succeeded more beautifully, in terms of providing for the security, love, protection and stimulation of the individuals participating.
In recent .times, successful communes have incorporated the following characteristics and the communes that have failed have not. These are:
a) A strong central leader;
b) A deep cause or
to a goal or a principle;
c) A well established role as
signment for each member with
that member agreeing
to the as
signment and fulfilling his func
If we wish to develop and extend the commune principle as a way of living
with and helping troubled adolescents, we must outline some basic premises.
1. The primacy of the self:
The self or the "I" is the centre of the universe. All things exist around,
and in terms of the self. This is the nature of human consciousness. At birth we exist in a state
of isolate loneliness without knowledge and uncivilized, with our perceptions and our potentials imprisoned within
our body; from the moment of birth our consciousness
begins to explore and discover the world within us and the world outside us through an orderly process governed
by, limited by, dependent on the functioning of our sensory modalities of communication.
As the self is fed and nourished and as the self's needs
are met and satisfied — stage by stage — the "I" grows into a person and the intellect of the "I" begins to assess, evaluate, and extend the heritage of our culture
and civilization. The knowledge that existed before is extended through
our experience and our thought and we become one with millions in a flowing, evolving river of life.
The commune must recognize the "I" at its present state for each of the individuals that make it up. There are aspects of the self which
will determine the role, the nature of the contribution, and the nature of the demand of the self
on the commune. To be unaware of the reality of the need of each self in the commune is to be unaware of what it is the commune must provide for its members. This knowledge will constitute one part of the burden to be
borne by the commune and also one part of the potential which can be brought to
blossom for each individual by the commune.
Transcending the self:
The commune is the "we" and the "we" transcends
the self. This is so because we are organisms with needs that must be met if we are to exist in a productive and happy state: in a state of harmony within and without.
The "we" is comprised of the self's fulfillment and an extension to one another. A state of relatedness exists which encompasses
in part, our need for each other. This need for
each other is not always the same, either for the group or for the individual. But it exists and it comes into being whenever selfs gather. The success of the commune then depends
very largely on our awareness and acceptance of who we are, why we are together, and where it is we wish to go.
Further, it is essential that we all know and understand what we will each contribute to that journey.
3. The commune:
The commune consists of the self and of the "we", but the self and the "we" does not make a commune. To make the commune we must define for each member in it his immediate need and his long range need and we must remember these will change. We must assess the immediate need and the long
term need of the commune as it will be contributed to by the specific self and we must remember that these things will change. A commune is a contradiction
between the needs of the self and the needs of the "we", and the order and life of the commune are the rules laid down to civilize
the needs of the "I" and the needs of the "we".
The individual aspires to transcend himself and others around
him. The "we" aspires to ensure all selfs will be the same. This is their nature. We must work in harmony
with their nature to bring each to a higher level
of functioning. Because this is the order of their nature, conflict and contradiction are central themes that must be dealt
4. High and low priority problems:
Because the idealism of many is established, and is part of
communes, many communes function impractically and fail. Others that are strongly rooted
and firmly in routine, fail because of lack of inspiration.
We must understand that in commune’s idealism and practical work must be seen to
be of equal importance. The idealism cannot be allowed to cloud the necessity to keep house, prepare food, care for the sick
and teach and learn. Nor must the life essential daily functions become emphasized and focused on to such an extent that the
idealism that nourishes the “we” and stretches our own goals can find no fertile place in which to express itself.