By Rebecca Dou
From the street corner, it looks like a regular house, but Sanctuary House offers much more than what its looks suggest. It gives people with mental illnesses a place to go to for support and rehabilitation.
Located in Greensboro, Sanctuary House has been providing services to the community for 12 years.
It was opened by four women whose loved ones had mental illnesses. Back then, Sanctuary House had only eight members receiving its services, but now it flourishes with 50 to 75 members coming in every day.
These members work hard to transform their lives.
Steve, who preferred to withhold his last name, came to Sanctuary House from the hospital after battling depression for years.
“Ever since I got here, I’ve been feeling a lot better,” said Steve. “I’m back to my old self again. I’m very glad because I don’t want to be dead right now, anything besides that.”
Another member, Sherida enjoys the relationships she builds through the program.
“It’s a wonderful place to be,” said Sherida. “You don’t have to be alone.”
One way Sanctuary House fosters relationships is by offering job training to its members through A Sweet Success! Bakery. The bakery provides wholesale services to a variety of local businesses, including Guilford College, where they provide vegan desserts to the cafeteria.
“Members are invited to participate in every aspect of the bakery,” said A Sweet Success! Bakery program manager Maya Aliff. “They work with us one on one, learning kitchen safety and sanitation, doing the grocery shopping and baking cakes.”
Photos by Eileen Martin
The bakery is not the only way Sanctuary House provides employment opportunities to its members, however. Sanctuary House also finds jobs that fit the members’ interests.
“Our members have earned $700,000 collectively in competitive wages through the years,” said Executive Director Jodi Lorenzo-Schibley.
By providing the members with jobs in the community, Sanctuary House hopes to decrease the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.
“Every time something bad happens on TV, there’s an initial report and then it comes out this person had mental illness,” said Program Director Anne Carter. “I think it can sometimes be a real shot to people who have mental illness and are actively trying to get better and well, especially like our members.”
To lessen this blow, Sanctuary House members are trying to redefine what it means to have a mental illness. Rather than focusing on the few bad examples that make the news, they emphasize the fact that many people who have mental illnesses still manage to achieve their dreams.
Many famous people we admire, like Beyoncé, Abraham Lincoln, Jim Carrey and Ellen DeGeneres, have suffered from mental illnesses.
“When you take the veil off these people, you realize they are people who are touched by something that anybody could experience,” said Lorenzo-Schibley. “And they still succeeded.”
The members of the Sanctuary House are no different. They all have dreams of their own. They don’t let their illnesses define them.
“We’ve made a lot of progress with accepting people’s physical differences,” said Director of Counseling Gaither Terrell. “Now we just need to do the same for psychological differences.”