18 December, 2014

Fountain House

My mom and me decided to spend the day in Manhattan to take in the magic of the holiday season. We saw all the usual tourist attractions as well as the original Fountain House, a beautiful brick building only ten minutes from Times Square, and founded in 1949 as a self-directed self-help program for those with major mental illness.

I set up a tour with Raj before coming and we were welcomed into a beautiful waiting room and then taken on a tour by Michael. To say I was impressed with Fountain House is an understatement. The tour given by Michael was superb and he told me about all the facets of the clubhouse I had questions on.

Fountain House is run in a similar fashion that I am familiar with at HERO House, only on a much larger scale. There are seven units, allowing members to participate in almost any facet of the clubhouse they are interested in, from horticulture, newsletter, reception, wellness, kitchen, outreach, a gym and more. Members set their own goals and work at their own pace, but are helped and encouraged to go back to work, finish schooling and secure stable housing and support systems.

Fountain House owns a 400 acre farm outside of New York City, which grows a lot of the healthy food that is served for breakfast and lunch. Members take turns doing work trips there. Along with the food at the farm, the horticulture unit supplies much of the greens for the lunches in a tightly controlled aquaponics room.

The clubhouse also coordinates housing for members and members of the clubhouse run a gallery just down the street. It is really inspiring to see the breadth and diversity of activity that goes on and to realise that there really are no limits to those with "unrecoverable mental illness".

If you get a chance to go to Manhattan, Fountain House is definitely worth a visit. It's only ten minutes from Times Square and being in the clubhouse felt like being home. I don't think I'll ever move to Manhattan, but if I do, I know where I'll be visiting often.

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