Safe Haven Drop-In Center celebrates fifth year
Rob Wilson is an engineering geologist with a successful 30-year career.
After a series of major life events, he found himself unable to work and isolated. Last July, he decided to come to the Safe Haven Drop-In Center in Colusa.
"I walked in here and sat on the couch for two weeks and didn't talk to anyone. I'd gone through six or seven major events in one year. If you have one major life event in a year, its manageable," said Wilson.
He came to the center to be around people.
"That helps when you're in a depressive state," Wilson said.
Over the last eight months, he attended stress management classes offered by Safe Haven, started volunteering with the organization as a greeter and cooking meals, and now teaches weekly classes tutoring students to help them pass the GED.
"I've progressed. My mental faculties have improved. Since I've improved I've been able to volunteer," he said.
The Safe Haven Drop-In Center, which celebrated its fifth anniversary on Friday, has 30 to 50 visitors and clients each week, ranging in ages from 18 to 80. The services provided include meals, skills-building classes and general support for people facing mental health issues.
"We want to empower them and give them skills to re-enter the community," said Dereck Parks, the coordinator of the program.
"We want to bring them a better sense of self."
The center gets a lot of support from the community, with many business partners, including local banks, the movie theater and the bowling alley.
The Colusa Theatre provides passes to clients of Safe Haven in exchange for cleaning the theater. Many of the clients are happy to help out with local volunteer projects when the opportunity comes.
"They want to give back to the community for what the community has done for them," said Valerie Stirling, a peer support specialist at Safe Haven.
The activities at the center are all chosen by clients and run by peers.
"Our policies and activities are peer-driven. It is not run by Dereck and I, we just oversee it," said Stirling.
The funding for the center comes from the 2004 Mental Health Services Act, which is a 1 percent tax on people who make more than $1 million a year. The funds generated go into a pool just for mental health.
J-R Galbraith has been visiting the center since it opened five years ago at its original location in the Behavioral Health building on East Carson Street. He struggles with depression and anxiety and works on-and-off.
"I'm not working, I gotta do something. I don't like sitting around," said Galbraith.
"I come in daily, pretty much. I don't spend all day here. I come in to say hello and find out how other people are doing. It's kind of a little family here, there are a core of individuals," said Wilson.
"We worry about each other," said Galbraith.
Save Haven moved to its current location, 131 Fifth Street, a year ago. The move marked a large change in the center away from the Department of Behavioral Health.
"We wanted to decrease the stigma associated with being mentally ill," said Parks.
"Mental health issues have always been hush-hush and pushed under the carpet," Wilson added.
"The stigma is bad in this community. People look down on you in Colusa," said Galbraith.
Safe Haven is welcoming and social. Clients and volunteers alike greet visitors and its easy to find someone to sit down and talk to.
"I think they have suffered a lot in their lives and to bring a little sunshine is important," said Parks.