By Natalie Simms
One of the biggest challenges facing people with mental illness is isolation. Caused by stigmas and other issues, isolation creates obstacles to recovery. To help alleviate this problem and create a true sense of community for those living with mental illness in Rome, a new group is coming together to create Elevation House.
Elevation House will be a clubhouse that offers people living with mental illness hope and opportunities to reach their full potential. It will be only one of two clubhouses in Georgia modeled after Clubhouse International. The other location is in Stone Mountain.
“We will be following a clubhouse model developed by Clubhouse International over 20 years with proven standards that are effective in over 320 Clubhouses in the world, including 200 in the United States,” says Don Scuvotti, coordinator of the startup group for Elevation House.
“The Clubhouse offers a sense of community to those who feel disenfranchised because of their mental illness.”
The daily activity of a Clubhouse is organized through a system known as the work-ordered day. It is an eight-hour period, typically Monday-Friday, where members and staff work side-by-side as colleagues to perform work needed within the Clubhouse.
“It is organized and structured just like a business day. The Clubhouse is not just a place to hang out; everyone who comes will have a purpose and role to play. Members will work with staff and have something to do to serve members and serve the community,” he says.
Elevation House also will help members with opportunities to return to paid employment through both transitional employment and independent employment programs.
“We will also provide educational opportunities. A lot of Clubhouse members have had to interrupt their education plans because of mental illness. We want to help get them back on track and provide the support and assistance they need to complete certificate or degree programs,” says Scuvotti.
In addition to education, Elevation House will help members with housing issues.
“Safe, decent and dignified house is a right for all members,” he says. “A vision of ours down the road after Elevation House is established is to create our own housing program.”
Elevation House also will be a place of recreational activities for members including evening, weekend and holiday social events.
“We want to create a family atmosphere. We will do that socially with dinners and activities during non-business hours. Especially dinners on holidays because so many don’t have family they can celebrate with. Activities will be schedule at both the Clubhouse and in the community,” says Scuvotti.
Jim and Bonnie Moore with National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) of Rome believe Elevation House will be extremely beneficial to the mental health community.
“Don’t we all feel better when we do something meaningful? People living with a mental illness are no different. Recently, Bonnie and I visited the clubhouse in Baltimore, and we were inspired to see the enthusiasm as the members carried out their daily roles. We believe the members of Elevation House in Rome will show the Rome community what recovery is all about as the members rise above the many myths about mental illness,” says Moore.
Elevation House has just been established as a 501c3 organization and set up for contributions. They are currently in the process of looking for a location for the Clubhouse.
“We are looking for a facility with at least 5,000 square feet or more that will allow us to serve about 50 people daily,” says Scuvotti. “Our hope and vision are that we will outgrow that space in the future and need a bigger location. As a start-up, our current plan is to lease space until we have the resources to purchase a building.
“If someone in the community has space available for lease, we would love to talk to them. It could be an office space, former retail space or even an old restaurant because we will need to have a commercial kitchen to provide breakfast and lunch for our members. Members will be trained in food preparation and service.”
It is estimated that first year operating expenses for Elevation House will be around $150,000 and rising to $340,000 by year three of operation. Expenses include clubhouse staff salary, benefits, training and clubhouse utilities.
How you can help
If you have a property available, contact Scuvotti via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. They also need volunteers, once a location is secured, help will be needed for renovations and materials. You can sign-up by emailing Scuvotti as well.
“We have a lot of needs. Any support is welcome. And any donations such as office furniture, kitchen wares and just general furniture and equipment,” he says.
Elevation House’s first fundraiser will be in partnership with NAMI Rome this November for the “Roam N Rome” walk around the city. The event will take place Saturday, Nov. 3, at Heritage Park. Teams are forming now to raise funds and sponsorships. You can sign up at www.roamnrome.myevent.com.