The clear sound of a singing bowl brings everyone’s attention to Damian Murphy, manager of the new Recovery Café pop-up located at 637 East Hastings Street in Vancouver. He asks for a moment of reflection and then proceeds with a few announcements before members come together to participate in the day’s workshops and recovery circle.
The Recovery Café is a place of belonging where people pursuing recovery – whether it’s from poverty, homelessness, mental health challenges, loneliness, physical injury, trauma, unemployment, or a substance use disorder – can participate in an intentional community of mutual support, and work towards their goals.
“For many who have lost everything, this will have a huge impact – just to be a part of something and to belong,” says Damian. “Very often, people in recovery are isolated and separated from the community because of shame and stigma, and this can be detrimental to one’s goals and aspirations. It is through community and knowing others deeply that one’s recovery becomes possible and can be maintained and sustained.”
An evidence-based recovery model originating in Seattle and replicated in over 30 communities throughout the United States, the Recovery Café will open a permanent location at 620 Clark Drive in Vancouver this summer – the first in Canada. In the interim, its operator, The Kettle Society, opened a pop-up location, thanks to a handful of donors who came together to ensure individuals could benefit from the model immediately, and begin working to improve their lives.
“Whenever we engage in a project, we want to focus on efforts that promise a broad impact on improving lives. The Recovery Cafe is a place where individuals looking for a place to belong, find help navigating support services, attend life skills workshops, and connect with others working on their personal goals, will have an opportunity for daily structured meaningful activity that enriches their lives,” says Lara Dauphinee, Streetohome Board Member and Director of The Giustra Foundation, which contributed towards the Pop-up operations seed funding.
The Recovery Café not only positively affects its members, but also housing and homelessness service providers, and local neighbourhoods by providing a new resource and opportunity for marginalized people to come inside, enjoy a specialty coffee and experience hope. Members are supported through a set of core interventions, including recovery circles with a trained facilitator – groups of 8-10 peers who hold themselves and each other accountable for achieving their goals each week.
“Working through one’s struggles in the presence of others who are there to listen, provide suggestions, and unconditional support can be transformative. These circles are an opportunity to share one’s challenges and successes, and to express intentions for the coming week,” says Damian.
Members are a part of the same circle with the same people each week, creating a community within the bigger Recovery Café community. This helps create a deep bond and true sense of belonging –members know they are loved and accepted and come to realize that they have gifts to share with each other and the larger community.
“There is a guiding principle here of ‘loving accountability.’ By holding each other to account in a supportive way, members, staff, and volunteers will play a pivotal role in the success of the program and the achievement of members’ goals,” says Damian. “It’s not just a place to go and receive services – it’s a safe place for recovery that is created and maintained by and for the members.”