Drop-In Center Runs on Peer Energy

Drop-In Center Runs on Peer Energy

Jeanne Cord concentrates hard as she colors the spiral flower petal with a brilliant purple marker.

“You’re not focusing on your problems here.  You’re in the moment, and it’s very relaxing,” observes Jeanne,  who leads a mandala group at C4 Broadway's  new Drop-In Center . At the same table sit five other women, exchanging markers to complete brilliantly colored designs while they chatted and ate pizza.  Like Jeanne, several are recovering from severe mood disorders that have left them hospitalized for long period s or even homeless.

Launched this March with funds from the Williams Decree ( C4 is one of six Illinois agencies contracted to provide transitions services from institutions to community settings), the Drop-In Center is open weekdays from 10 am to 4 pm.  The goal is to offer a safe haven for people living with mental illness to test out their independent living skills and support each other in their recovery.  At the heart of the program is the belief that peer-run groups empower consumers to develop skills and live out their passions.

“I am definitely blown away by the creativity I have seen here," observes Herb Cobbs, who runs the center with peer specialist Troy Butler. Open to the community, the center draws  nearly 300 participants every week, including “unfunded” adults without Medicaid or insurance who cannot access  C4 services.

“The Drop-In Center is  fantastic  resource for these folks without funding,” Cobbs observes.

Cobbs estimates that most days, there are about 70 men and women who participate in the groups, watch TV, play cards, or take advantage of the center’s bank of computers. 

Visitors can choose to join a book club (now discussing Angela’s Ashes), learn how to cruise the Internet, or get a haircut thanks to a consumer’s skills. They can also talk about spirituality or take time to get some impromptu counseling by two staff members.

Unlike traditional therapy, the drop-in center allows for one-on-one conversation that can help consumers resolve problems that crop up between appointments.

“Now people can talk about problems when they’re feeling it,” says Cobbs.

Among the groups is  Silent Voices, a writer’s workshop, whose members are encouraged to publish on a blog.  Sheri Hillson, a published writer who organized the workshop, said the group is seeking funding to publish an anthology of poetry, short stories and essays.

“Writing helps to get problems out of your head and onto paper,” explains Hillson, who is working on her own novel based on her experience living in an SRO.  Fellow member Liz Hipwell is putting Hillson's handwritten manuscript into Microsoft Word.

“It makes feel like I have a purpose,” says Hipwell, who also helped organize an artist’s collective that meets Saturdays  at the Center on Halsted.


For more information on C4's Drop-In Center, contact info@c4chicago.org.