The old Float 404 Tapas Bar building is getting new tenants.
The San Angelo Clubhouse, a nonprofit program under the umbrella of the MHMR Services of the Concho Valley, is setting up a members-only clubhouse for adults with mental illness.
“It’s new to San Angelo, but it’s an organization that has been around for 70 years,” said Andi Watson, clubhouse director. “The clubhouse program in an international program. There’s over 300 in the world and over 220 in the United States.”
In Texas there are four accredited clubhouses. San Angelo’s clubhouse is not yet accredited, but it should be by the end of 2017, she said.
The clubhouse has been operating out of an MHMR building but is scheduled to move into the its new location on South Irving Street by Feb.1.
Staff and members have spent the past couple of weeks working to clean up and make minor repairs to their new building, which overlooks the Concho River.
“The purpose of the clubhouse is to provide adults with mental illness who are stable enough to eventually go back into the workforce, a place to meet and a place for meaningful work,” Watson said. “Basically we provide enough tasks within the clubhouse itself, which are divided into units, for actual hands-on training for each member.”
Units consist of separate hands-on jobs that target social skills and prepare members for the workforce.
Members get to try their hands in working with computers, handling cash, preparing food and more. The clubhouse is primarily operated by its members.
“Equal quality of power is in a clubhouse,” Watson said. “Staff is minimal, enough to help make things run smoothly, and everything in the clubhouse is done by the members, whether its data entry or janitorial or something as lengthy as helping with writing a grant to a foundation.
“They participate with everything they feel comfortable with,” she said. “What we’re trying to supply is enough tasks that they can turn around later and say ‘I’ve done this and I can put it on my resume.‘”
The clubhouse also offers an employment program that has staff working with local businesses with the ending goal of employing its members.
“We have what we call transitional employment, which is where a staff member will go to a restaurant or a store or business and they will learn the job,” Watson said. “Staff will learn the job as if they are the ones that are going to go work there, and then we find the member who is ready and willing to try that job.”
Clubhouse staff will then train the members from what they learned instead of having the employer provide the training because sometimes members may need a little longer to grasp the responsibilities of the job, which are usually part-time, about 20-25 hours a week, she said.
Member Mike Ferrell suffers from PTSD, depression and anxiety, but that has not stopped him from participating in the clubhouse. Being a member has helped him become a happier person.
“I love it,” he said. “Since I’ve gotten in on this and gotten involved it’s helped me. It’s more therapeutic than the meds or anything.”
Ferrell joined the clubhouse two months ago when it first opened. He is the clubhouse cook.
“This brings out talents; everybody’s got a talent no matter how badly they’re affected by mental illness,” he said. “Just given the chance they can show ‘hey, I can do this.’ It makes them feel better about themselves.”
The four existing clubhouses in Texas — in Austin, San Antonio and two in Houston — formed the Texas Clubhouse Coalition, which supported expansion statewide.
“Until August of this past year, there was no state funding for clubhouses,” Watson said. “They were private funded, usually by foundations that supported mental health. We were the first ones to receive startup funding from the state of Texas through a grant worth about $480,000.”
The clubhouse is still developing, and as it grows there will me more jobs available for members.
To be eligible for membership, an applicant must have a mental health diagnosis; be at least 18; have housing of some sort; be following a treatment plan; and not be a danger to self or others.
“The things we do within the clubhouse is all volunteer,” Watson said. “The reward in itself is to gain that knowledge so they can turn around and use it towards being more productive in the community.”
For more information, visit the clubhouse’s website at sanangeloclubhouse.org.