Gateway to Other Services

“We are a gateway for services, which most people don’t know, but as they’re working on a project the more they get to know somebody and work with them, they may start doing a very low level assessment about, where are you living? Do you have a house? Do you have an ID?”
– Interview with Ivan Vera, Hospitality House’s Community Arts Program Studio Manager

Hospitality House was one of the first organisations in San Francisco to start working with people facing dual diagnosis, whereby the person affected suffers from a combination of mental health issues and substance abuse. Ivan Vera, Studio Manager at their Community Arts Program (CAP), explains that this policy is central to their mandate. It recognises that mental health and substance abuse can often “come hand in hand” and that is why the staff at the CAP studio say “we’ll meet you where you’re at”.

Painting by Larry Clark. Image courtesy of the artist.

This low threshold policy has thus revealed that the studio can be a hugely effective way of introducing people to other support services, either within Hospitality House or connections elsewhere. This has meant that the studio has introduced people from off the street, who might not have otherwise got involved, to the organisation. Some have then gone on to form significant and long lasting relationships with Hospitality House’s wider network.

“Their approach was very gentle and sensitive and personal and that’s really what I’ve appreciated.”
– Interview with Jo, a regular artist that attends Hospitality House’s CAP

Vera tells me how the programme is “super low threshold, so a lot of our clients might be dual diagnosis, they might have a drug addiction or mental health issues and sometimes a combination of both so…it’s not only helping with instruction but helping people manage what other things that might be challenging.”

In order to ensure that this low threshold policy runs smoothly, the programme follows a set of ‘studio rules’ that enables a productive working space that is safe for participants. Vera explains, “we try to just create a space that is friendly, welcoming and creative. We have other drop in centres where you can go and take a nap, watch movies, get counselling but the art studio is really a place to just make art and I like it to be quiet.”