If you’re homeless and in recovery, it can be difficult to maintain your sobriety when you have so little control over your life. Between 60-70 percent of St. Francis House’s guests report having a substance use disorder, and that number is probably even higher.
St. Francis House’s new Recovery Support Center, which resides on the fifth floor of 39 Boylston St., is dedicated to helping guests strengthen their sobriety by providing community, activities, support, meals, and access to all of the regular services offered to anyone who walks through St. Francis House’s doors. The center is open the same hours as the rest of the building— 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. —and will serve 40 to 60 guests each day.
The most exciting part of the project is that the center is operated by and for people in recovery. “All of the staff members have the lived experience of recovery, so they can really understand and empathize with members,” explains Andrea Farina, Vice President of Program Strategy and Initiatives. Their job is to help create a recovery community that is welcoming, inclusive, and supportive of all pathways of recovery. But it is the guests who are in the driver’s seat.
“The center runs on what is called a peer participatory model, which recognizes that learning, growth, and giving of yourself to a community strengthens your own recovery and your sense of purpose, belonging, and self-worth,” Farina adds. Guests helped with designing the program and are fully involved in its day-to-day operations.
At the Recovery Support Center, which is open to all guests who are sober and in recovery, members participate in activities, connect with others in recovery, access resources, and reinforce their own recovery process. “We have been hearing from our guests for years that they need a safe, sober place to spend their time,” says Farina. “We are thrilled that, as a result of investments in our new building across the street at 48 Boylston, we were able to free up the space to bring this longstanding vision to life.”
St. Francis House has provided the basics, including a fully stocked kitchen for guests to cook in, a computer lab, a keyboard and guitars, a movie projector, and a ping pong table, and furniture that can be configured in multiple ways to accommodate groups and meetings. Breakfast and lunch are provided each day from the St. Francis House kitchen. Bright colors enliven the space and messages of recovery adorn the walls.
“As exciting as all of these resources are, what will make this center a success are the people,” says Farina. “This is all about people helping each other strengthen their recovery, while also working to create a shared vision of what a vibrant recovery community can look like.”
Note: This article first appeared in the St. Francis House winter newsletter The Spirit of Giving in December 2019. Since opening in October 2019, the Recovery Support Center has had over 500 guests visit the center and 200 members officially join. Stay tuned for future updates regarding the Center in 2020!