Clarice Gallegos, Executive Director of Focus Clubhouse of Lafayette, joined Discover Lafayette to discuss her mission to help people with mental illness have a reason to get up in the morning, be around like-minded people, and have meaningful work to do.
Focus Clubhouse is a free membership community for people 18 years of age and older offering a nonclinical, safe, and enjoyable environment to people who suffer from a diagnosed mental illness. Members are provided opportunities for work, education, housing, wellness, and friendship and a chance to thrive with the support of their peers.
A great many adults who have serious mental illnesses experience repeated mental health crises resulting in frequent hospitalizations and encounters with law enforcement. Clarice struggled for years in her relationship with her son, Brian Boswell, who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He had no real business skills, was homeless, in and out of shelters, and threatened suicide on two occasions.
It was in Miami that Brian found the Clubhouse model and it was there that he “finally felt that he had a sense of self and fit in.” He started turning his life around through the help of the Key Clubhouse over the five years he was affiliated with the chapter. Now 48 years old, Brian moved back to Louisiana several years ago and encouraged Clarice to help him start a local chapter of Clubhouse; the Lafayette chapter is the only such Clubhouse in Louisiana.
Brian Boswell pictured with his mother, Clarice Gallegos. Brian moved back to Louisiana in 2016 and when he couldn’t find a local Clubhouse, he said, “I’ll just start one!” Incorporated in July 2018, Focus Clubhouse has about 20 active members, with 5 to 7 active participants on any given day. Clarice says, “Once you’re a member, you are always a member.”
The power of the Clubhouse International model is its effectiveness in keeping members out of crisis and on a path to recovery. The Clubhouse Model began in 1948 in New York City and is currently being successfully used in over 300 locations in 30 countries around the world. It offers a proven method of psychiatric rehabilitation in a nonclinical setting.
“By coming to the Clubhouse, you receive love and understanding, gain a purpose, have people pushing you to believe in yourself and know that all things are possible. We say Grace every day at the Clubhouse because we’re grateful to the One who has allowed us to be sustained.”
Focus Clubhouse is open from 10 am to 3 pm on weekdays. Members are served lunch for $2.00 but Clarice emphasizes that if money is a problem, there is no charge. Chores such as sweeping, filing, and cooking lunch are handled by members alongside Clarice. Clarice is the rock of the organization, being there each day and ensuring that the Clubhouse operates smoothly.
Volunteers are encouraged as well as monetary contributions. Focus Clubhouse is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) so any donations are tax-deductible. It costs approximately $50 per day to support a member. For as little as $25, you can provide lunch for a member for two weeks. To learn more about ways you can help, please visit https://focusclubhouse.org/get-involved/
Focus Clubhouse is proud to have moved into its new, larger location at 1609 Johnston Street near UL-Lafayette to better serve its members.
We thank Clarice Gallegos for her heart and dedication to helping people who just need a break and a place to fit in. May God bless her and the members of Focus Clubhouse.