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Clubhouses: Elliott Steele’s Letter to the Editor, March 7, 2008

These clubhouses save money and improve lives

St. Petersburg Times
 Letters to the Editor
 Published March 7, 2008

 Here’s the pork March 3  
 I would like to clarify the description of "clubhouses" as legislative pork in the Monday Metro section.
 Vincent House is a Clubhouse for people living with the effects of a serious mental illness. The term "Clubhouse" is quite misleading. It sounds like a place where people hang out, play golf or just goof off.
 In reality, a Clubhouse, certified by the International Center for Clubhouse Development (ICCD), like Vincent House, is a place where people who have experienced a mental illness come to rebuild their lives. Participants, called members, work side by side with a limited number of staff to perform the work needed to keep the Clubhouse running smoothly. Members are needed for meal prep, data entry, banking and more. This work helps the members build the confidence and stamina needed to return to paid employment in the community. Our motto is "Celebrating Recovery through Work."
 Currently we have about 50 members working in the community and earning nearly $300,000 annually. They are now taxpayers rather than merely users of services. This saves taxpayer money while greatly improving the lives of the people served.
 This budget request is primarily to establish 11 new Clubhouses throughout Florida. The development of more Clubhouses will mean 1,500 more people will have the opportunity to return to the world of employment, friendship and community. This would sure beat the costly alternatives such as hospitalization, incarceration or homelessness, or early death due to suicide.
 An ICCD Clubhouse should not be viewed as "pork," but rather as an opportunity to save money while improving lives. This is just the kind of year to make this request.
 Please read some of the previous articles in the Floridian about Vincent House and our members. Or better yet, visit us at Vincent House or on the Web at and see for yourself how cost-effective the Clubhouse program can be. You won’t find any "pork" around here.

 Elliott Steele, executive director, Vincent House, Pinellas Park