Clubhouse Stories

Progress Place: Part of a Larger Solution
November 30, 2015

By Criss Habal-Brosek, Progress Place, Canada

“We believe that clubhouse innovation in the community is the next frontier in helping to create system wide mental health solutions.”

Clubhouses are best described as places that improve the lives of people living with mental illness. We offer programs and services which provide opportunities for recovery through friendship, employment, education, housing and recreation in a welcoming and accessible environment of support, respect and dignity. We believe every individual would benefit from the sense of community that Clubhouses create, the sense of belonging, the feeling of social connectedness, and the empowerment that Clubhouses reinforce by focusing on individual strengths. It was this realization that helped us in recent years bring the Clubhouse values and philosophy into the broader mental health community. I am excited to share with you two projects that we initiated and developed, one is for adults who are 55 plus and the other is within a marginalized community for people of all ages.

We initially did a scan of the local senior services sector. We found that there were no senior services that included support for people living with mental illness, only for seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Then we consulted with neighbouring agencies that were working with seniors and suggested that together we develop a clubhouse for seniors. Our common goal was to bring services to a marginalized, underserved, high need community. We were successful in securing space to pilot a clubhouse for seniors within this area.

We continued to pilot the Seniors Clubhouse for 2 years while we submitted proposals to our funders. We were finally successful after two years and were given funding for a full-time position with funds for program supplies.

The Seniors Clubhouse started with a handful of seniors attending the program and now has an average daily attendance of 22 people. We have successfully created a community where people feel a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose and have made social connections. The space where we offer the senior program provides barrier free health access to all, children to seniors, ensuring that people have the opportunity for improved health, by coming to a welcoming and accessible community that provides social connectedness and encouragement for people to move forward in life. Progress Place is proud of this initiative as it pre-emptively opens an area of responsibility for clubhouses to develop creative options for seniors ready to transition from clubhouses into a dignified clubhouse alternative that operates based on a foundation of the values, philosophy and principles of the clubhouse movement.

Our second community initiative is located across the city in Mt. Dennis, an underserved and high priority neighbourhood. When we visited this community we developed a broad vision, one that would have a small clubhouse where people would have a sense of belonging, feel needed and wanted as well as have a place where health services could be accessed by everyone in the community.

We partnered with another service provider, and started a Service Provider Network. We drew a lot of attention from local service providers, residents and local politicians/funders. Progress Place took the lead and provided in-kind voluntary staff resources along with program supplies and opened the doors officially April 13th 2015. We started by having a few residents attend on a daily basis to having over 500 individuals participate to date. We have been focusing on building trust and the sense of community by offering access to computers, Wi-Fi, photocopying, faxing and use of a telephone. We have local agencies attending the Community Place Hub providing employment resources, helping with resume writing, job interviews, and workshops for newcomers on settlement issues, a peer nutrition program for single parents and children, a summer children’s program for 40 children, a weekly community coffee and on the list goes. We have built a rapport with many individuals who have shared that they are living with mental illness and need a place to go and something to do.

Both the Seniors Clubhouse and the new program, The Community Place Hub, are truly gratifying and exemplify the clubhouse values and philosophy of working in partnership, developing a sense of community that offers hope and belonging to various parts of the city by improving the lives of children, teenagers, adults and seniors. The Clubhouse model is the most empowering model in the world. It is time to be bold and be fearless; we believe that clubhouse innovation in the community is the next frontier in helping to create system wide mental health solutions.