Frequently Asked Questions
What does "intellectually disabled" mean?
People with intellectual disabilities have limitations in their ability to learn and perform daily life skills that were manifested before 22 years of age. Some have other physical or emotional challenges. Often people who have intellectual disabilities are less preoccupied with competition and success than is typical in our society, and they may have a keen sensitivity to relationships and a gift for celebration and for creating unity.
A person with an intellectual disability is just as fully a person and a citizen as is anyone else. He or she has the same range of likes and dislikes and character traits as any other person. Everyone has some limitations. L'Arche believes that people with intellectual disabilities have important contributions to make to others, contributions that help to humanize our society. [See further definition by L’Arche International (dependent on country of origin) at the end of this document.]
How can my relative with a disability come to L'Arche?
L'Arche communities in the United Sates serve adults with a diagnosis of intellectual disability. Each community of has its own admissions procedure. To learn more about admissions, contact the L’Arche communityclosest to you. A list of current and emerging L’Arche communities can be found on the L’Arche USA web site (http://www.larcheusa.org/who-we-are/communities/).
L'Arche communities grow slowly because of the unusual L'Arche model of shared life in households that are home to both the core members (people with intellectual disabilities) and those who share life with and support them (assistants). However, L'Arche communities welcome friendships with families where someone has an intellectual disability, and they often have social gatherings to which they invite friends and visitors.
What are the ages of Core Members? Generally speaking 22 and up.
Who comes to work or volunteer at L'Arche?
Some people come to L'Arche because they are interested in the field of intellectual disability. They are drawn by L'Arche's vision, which focuses on the gifts and contributions to our society of those who have intellectual disabilities. Others come to L'Arche wanting an experience of life in community. The prospect of living together with people of differing intellectual capacity, social origin, religion and culture is attractive and the experience of building community around the weaker members of our societies challenges them. People find L'Arche a good environment for personal growth. Some people come to L'Arche because of a social justice motivation or because the spiritual dimension of L'Arche attracts them. L'Arche's life together in solidarity with people who are easily marginalized, its simple and accepting spirituality and its ecumenical and interfaith dimensions attract them.
Where do assistants come from?
L’Arche USA and L’Arche International will spread the word through greater L’Arche community. In addition, organizations such as AmeriCorps and the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, alliances with colleges and universities, church affiliations, and individuals seeking a community living experience also provide recruiting opportunities.
Do assistants have other jobs?
No. Many assistants are developed for their next steps in L’Arche leadership.
How are assistants compensated?
Stipends, room and board, spirituality and relationships, use of vehicles, weekly time off, health care coverage, vacations, continuing education
What are you looking for in assistants?
Mainly a heart for the work, also a desire to live in community. L’Arche will train for specifics. A desire to share spirituality, a selfless attitude, and a deep respect for the value of individuals who have intellectual disabilities, and a desire to walk through life with them are all essential.
How many people live in a L’Arche community?
There is no “set number” for how many live in a L’Arche community. Each community is located in the same city and may be comprised of from one to eight homes. Each home usually has four to five core members and three assistants. However, this varies according to each individual community.
Must one live in the community to work in L’Arche?
Some communities have “live-out” assistants who share in daily life with core members but who do not live in the homes.
Is L'Arche a religious organization?
L'Arche's first belief is in the sacredness and unique value of every individual. From its earliest beginnings, L'Arche was built on respect and the valuing of difference. Fairly often, L'Arche members have roots in a mainstream Christian denomination. Others are Muslims, Jews, Hindus or Buddhists; and some do not believe in God. Everyone is welcomed and respected in their freedom of conscience among the spiritual practices. In L'Arche homes the norm is to say grace before the main meal and to light a candle and join in silent or spoken prayer after dinner. L'Arche does not proselytize but seeks to support each person in his or her own faith tradition.
How are various faiths honored and integrated into the community?
People are encouraged to share spirituality, not necessarily a certain faith. Individuals are encouraged to follow and are supported in their own tradition if they have one. Founded on the Beatitudes, all are supported in L’Arche. Each community is encouraged to find its own way.
How does the region/ L’Arche USA/ L’Arche International support the individual communities?
Through prayer, training and formation, mentoring, assisting in finding staff, gatherings and celebrations as L’Arche regions, L’Arche USA, and L’Arche International, board training
Does one need special training to work in L'Arche?
Some people who come to work in L'Arche have experience working with people with disabilities, but most have not. The first requirement is that applicants have a desire to share life together in a community setting. In addition, one must be able to perform the duties as outlined in the assistant role description, e.g., as a caregiver for people with disabilities. Besides training in skills for caregiving, L'Arche provides educational experiences on broader topics that help its members to reflect on their vision of humanity and to grow in their relationships with others.
How is L'Arche funded?
Each local L'Arche community is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Most of the local communities are funded from a combination of government funding and fundraising. L’Arche USA and its communities rely on the generosity of individuals, foundations, organizations, and congregations.
Where does funding come from?
- Capital funding (building, bricks and mortar, equipment, etc.) will be raised by the board of directors in the form of grants, corporate gifts, and individual gifts. Additionally, a small amount of fund raising is done by the Community Life Group.
- Operating budget (services, employees, food, transportation) will be 2/3 Medicaid Waivers, that the Core Member brings to the Community, and they will basically pay “rent” to the Community.
- Grant funding, 1/3 from list of sources stated in Capital funding.
How does a L’Arche community get started?
Because L’Arche is both an intentional faith community and a nonprofit organization, the process of founding a L'Arche home is quite different than starting a typical group home. The guiding principle is that “L’Arche starts L’Arche.” For example, only the International Federation of L’Arche – through its local region and zone – can decide where and when a new L’Arche community can be founded. The Regional Expansion Plan of the local L’Arche Region provides guidance in these decisions. L'Arche realizes that it cannot provide sufficient homes for all the people with intellectual disabilities who search for loving and high quality homes. We "seek to offer not a solution but a sign" of hope in our world.
How did your group get started?
The same way L’Arche got started everywhere else, a small group of people (in our case 3 mothers of adult children with intellectual disabilities) heard about L’Arche. They visited the closest L’Arche community (Lynchburg, VA), and came home determined to try to start a L’Arche community. The community leader in Lynchburg put them in touch with the regional director, who has mentored us. Timeline: Initial visit to Lynchburg in 2007, first large “open” meeting to spread the word, 9/2008. Pre- project application accepted 5/2011. Approved as a 501(c)3 Not for Profit Public Charity 5/2014.