How a Salt Lake City clubhouse helps those with mental illness

Local News

Salt Lake City (News4Utah) He says he could easily be living under a bridge somewhere in Salt Lake City. Instead, Dave Harper has a job and an apartment. He gives a lot of credit for his current situation to a place called the Alliance House. In this special report, we take you inside the unique clubhouse and explain how it is changing the lives of those with mental illness. 

Dave Harper enjoys “manning the front desk.” “Answer phones. Hang out at the desk. Make it look like a run the place. Ha.”  In a way, Dave, and the other club members do run the place. That’s because the Alliance House is a place, for those with severe or persistent mental illness, to get help and help run the club. Paige Huff, the Executive Director of the Alliance House says “There are three levels of members – the individuals with mental illness. There are staff members who are paid to be here and there is the board of directors.” Huff says 30-40 members with mental illness visit the house every day. She says they choose which unit they want to work in that day. They can go to career development, the business unit or the culinary unit. By doing this they train side by side with the staff and learn skills to help them rebuild self-respect, dignity, and abilities. “If alliance house wasn’t here for some of these members – there more than likely would be hospitalized. Many have claimed they would be homeless.” 

And she isn’t exaggerating. Dave says if he hadn’t found the Alliance House he would probably be living under a bridge somewhere. “Came out here with the clothes on my back. I was unemployable and un-rentable.” The 48-year-old says he ended up in a psych unit at a behavioral health center. But then Dave started coming to the house and began changing.  “A month after that – I was working. Cleaning laundry rooms with a crew at the U. So, in the past two years, I have completely repaired my life – I became employable and rentable.” Dave says for the first time in a long time – he was able to maintain employment and maintain an apartment for a year. 

Huff says Dave’s story is not unique. “A lot of our members – prior to coming here were hospitalized continuously, not knowing where to get their medications or who turn to.” But she says those who find the Alliance House also find evidenced-based training that often changes their lives. “Coming here has created a life for me. You know. It gives me a reason to look forward – things to look forward to in the morning when I get up. When I walk in I hear people say ‘Hey, Dave. What’s going on?” Instead of ‘Oh, crap – You again.’ I’ve had both responses.” 

The Alliance House is located in Salt Lake City, but there are Clubhouse locations in Tooele County, Davis County, and Utah County. And there are 340 Clubhouse-model programs in 27 countries. As a non-profit, 501c organization, the Alliance House depends on donations. So, for a link to their website to learn more or to help out -.go to https://www.alliancehouse.org

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