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Clubhouse helping overcome mental illness in Puget Sound

One of the many causes of homelessness is mental illness. A growing Washington non-profit is working to keep people off the streets by surrounding them with friends and goals.

Membership in this club hinges on an important provision: You have to pitch in.

“I don’t care if I have to wipe windows, clean the bathroom, give me a task to do, so I feel like I participate in the group,” said Kim Rettig, one of the members of HERO House NW.

Rettig and the others who gather a few times a week at clubhouses in Seattle and Bellevue share not only chores but an experience of overcoming mental illness.

“I’ve got bipolar disorder, and I’ve had a traumatic brain injury, and it has overcome my life up to about a year ago,” she said.

That’s when Rettig joined HERO House NW, part of an international organization of non-profits, which create spaces where people with mental illnesses can make friends and get help finding jobs, healthcare, and housing.

“The most devastating effect of serious mental illness is isolation, loneliness, and so this clubhouse creates a place for an organic relationship to develop,” said Larry Klum, chief operating officer of HERO House NW.

T.Y. Bogan once lived on the streets of Seattle and now has a home. Since he started coming to the Seattle clubhouse, he has hope.

“I suffer from depression, and this has really, really helped me, I learned to smile again,” he said.

Each day, the group divvies up a list of tasks, and then they get to work. On Friday, members helped prepare lunch.

Klum says his organization is helping to reduce homelessness, emergency hospitalizations, and incarcerations.

They’re now planning a third location in Everett.

HERO House NW helped Rettig get back in school, they connected her with a job and gave her something she lost years ago: purpose.

“Joining clubhouse has really saved my life,” she said.

The Seattle and Bellevue clubhouses are funded by King County, private donations, and grants.

October 12, 2018
King 5 News
By Ted Land