Chapter One: The Helping Triangle
The Helping Triangle developed in this chapter is what Legerton and Castelloe (1999) call an organic model, one developed primarily through active participation in social life (e.g., primarily through practice) rather than independence from social life (e.g., primarily through academic reflection.) In the Introduction, we saw how people helping people represents human services at their most basic level. You see someone in distress and decide to do what you can to help. Perhaps you recruit a few of your friends to pitch in and help too. Usually this ad hoc human services provision works fine and you and your friends move on with your lives. Sometimes, though, this generous level of help is insufficient. There are more people needing help than you and your friends can manage, you have other priorities, you do not have the resources needed to provide the help people need. Instead of just walking away, you decide to create a human services agency with sufficient resources to provide the needed help on an ongoing basis. Help will be there for the people who need it, when they need it, for as long as they need it.
Perhaps this does not seem like anything you will do or can do. If asked If not you, then who? You answer They will. This clearly puts you with the majority. Most people do not notice the distress of others and most of those who do simply walk away. The good news is a few people do notice and a few of those who notice choose not to walk away. If you are among those who choose not to walk away, understanding the Helping Triangle as explained in the iterations below and in later chapters enables you to create a human services agency that can and will provide the help the people in distress need. The model is a product of many years of trial and error; it is an organic model known to work in real world situations. It will not help you decide if you will stick around and help; but if you do, understanding the Helping Triangle makes it likely you can do what needs done. With this assurance in mind, lets consider how human services agencies are created. (For alternative perspectives and approaches, see Brueggemann, 2006 and Netting, Kettner, & McMurtry, 2008. These authors focus on macro social work which is generally inclusive of the concepts and processes incorporated into this organic model. Additionally, Fauri, Wernet, & Netting, 2008, provide a thoughtful collection of case examples highlighting macro practice within a variety of situations and contexts.)