As Seattle’s hypergentrification continues, a plain brick building on the corner of Denny and Fairview sticks of like a sore thumb with it’s plain brick façade against a glass and steel building complexes. The RecoveryCafé serves as an oasis for the recovering addicts community in a city that is building a new wall every other second- physically and metaphorically. The café strives to be an “alternative community” that celebrates sobriety by providing community base, non-religious but spiritually-led care. Its format is similar to a community center where people who are in recovery can become “members”. As a member, you are served 2 meals a day buffet-style, a variety of classes ranging from yoga to painting, computer and phone access, and the opportunity to enroll in classes to learn how to be a barista or yoga instructor. The only requirement to continue membership is to attend a recovery group (Recovery Circles) once a week in which you discuss your progress on maintaining sobriety or path towards sobriety. Additionally, members are required to be sober during the time they spend at the facility.
I met with Carolyn, the program manager, who gave me a tour of the cafe. It is a bright and warm one level layout with certain areas designated as living room space(books and couches), a media center with computers and printers, and a café in the middle with tables surrounding it cafeteria-style. Off to the side is the kitchen where volunteers are using whatever they received that day from local food banks and restaurants to prepare over 200+ meals.
The RecoveryCafé focuses on creating a space that focuses on building community and support. Using the Recovery Oriented System of Care (ROSC) model, they acknowledge that the pathway to recovery is different from individual to individual but the common thread is that most people are unable to do it alone. Carolyn has been at the café long enough to know individuals on a first-name basis and their personal stories. She encourages sharing and support between everyone and states that an essential part of Recovery Circles is giving feedback to those around you. I attended an orientation session led by Jason, the Director of Operations, in which new members were given an introduction as to what the RecoveryCafé could do for them. Members at the table came from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, different stages of recovery, and different levels of familiarity with the RecoveryCafé. Post-orientation, I talked to Jason about his philosophy towards medicine and it boiled down to “building support so individuals can be self-advocates”. He has a history of substance use himself and brings personal experience to the table in understanding that recovery alone is an extremely difficult pathway. He hopes that the relationships made here will at least serve as a constant in the often chaotic lives of those who walk through their doors.