2020 has been quite a year…an understatement to say the least. While most people are not sad to see the year come to a close, we would be remiss to let it slip away without appropriate reflection and perhaps even a bit of thankfulness.
This past January, when the clock struck midnight on a new decade, the world anticipated great things. 2020 seemed the perfect year to reset our lives, to clear our thoughts, and to seek a more focused vision of our future. With Valentine’s Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day all falling on Fridays, and July 4 and Halloween both on Saturday, 2020 seemed ready for celebration. It was a year that had many brimming with hope for what was to come. Little did we know the journey 2020 had in store for each of us.
March 13, 2020 was the day that the world as we knew it stood still. We were confronted with a menacing adversary that threatened to uproot our lives in ways we never thought possible. Every school in our nation, from kindergarten through post-graduate sent students home, many businesses were deemed non-essential with employees working remotely from a home office, or worse yet terminated, and we found ourselves scrambling to find necessities we once took for granted. As the days and months of 2020 rolled on, so too did unrest and divisiveness. The optimism that burned so brightly on January 1st was replaced by overwhelming weariness.
With a year like 2020, it might be difficult to consider the word “thankful.” Even now, as we enter the holiday season, a blanket of uneasiness is heavy on many. But perhaps as we enter this season, which is typically punctuated by gratitude and hope, it is a time to recount not that which was lost, but rather the blessings gained amid the storm.
Like many other businesses and organizations, the Our Space administrative offices and Drop-in Center were required to temporarily close, during Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order. This left 1,059 members without a place to connect and refresh. While we desperately missed the daily interaction, our staff was thankful for the ability to meet with members through virtual platforms. In addition, the downtime provided the perfect opportunity to do a little community room redecorating. While members were away, the space was painted, tiled, rearranged, and even refurnished. The new and improved drop-in center was ready to welcome members back on June 1. And, while there have been a couple disruptions for COVID-related sanitizing, we are grateful that the doors have remained open for the majority of the time, and ready to serve members every weekday.
We have all heard stories about the impact of the pandemic on mental well-being. The Our Space Peer Support team has served the most vulnerable in our community throughout the COVID crisis. As with our drop-in center, meetings were virtual at the onset of the pandemic. However, in early June, following the CDC and Milwaukee County safety guidelines, our team began getting together with clients face-to-face. To date, we remain one of the few organizations meeting clients on a regular basis. We are thankful for our dedicated staff which regularly connects with 114 outside peer support clients.
The doors of the Parachute House peer-run respite have been open throughout the entire pandemic. Since the start of 2020, we have provided a safe place for 224 guests to decompress and regroup through low-level crisis situations, while freeing up the mental health caseload of our local healthcare system.
While The Price Is Right Shoppe was also closed during the onset of the Pandemic, this valuable community resource also re-opened in June and has been there to provide clothing and household items so that those who struggle with mental health challenges can live independently. To date, 459 individuals have utilized this free service in 2020. We are thankful for the individuals and organizations who have donated their new and gently used items to the Price is Right Shoppe, so that our customers are able to utilize this valuable resource.
The Our Space Supportive Housing Coordinators and on-site Peer Support Specialists also remained on the job throughout the shutdowns, overseeing needs of the 132 residents who call these facilities home. We are grateful for their dedication so that we could continue providing individuals who struggle with mental health and addiction challenges an affordable way to get back on their feet.
Throughout 2020, the Our Space Team has worked tirelessly to fulfill our mission of empowering individuals living with mental illness and substance abuse issues to achieve their full potential, by providing recovery-oriented, person-centered services and programs. However, the fulfillment of this mission would be impossible without the support of our amazing donors. We are so very thankful for the precious financial and in-kind donations they consistently provide, so that we can support our members, clients, guests, and residents.
So yes, 2020 has been quite a year. But despite the trials that have come our way, here at Our Space, we look back with gratitude for those who came alongside us, and we look forward with expectation as continue to fulfill our mission and work to provide future of hope for those we serve.