The mission of Karis Community is to provide a transitional, community-living opportunity for restoring basic life skills and improving the social well-being of individuals recovering from serious and persistent mental illness.
Karis Community was founded in 1976 as Shalom, and it began as a site for respite from the stressors of everyday life. In 1978, a couple named Swanee Hunt and Mark Meeks assumed administration of Shalom, and transformed it into Karis Community. Karis is the Greek word for grace; a core value of the program.
Karis Community's program is called the Empowerment Program. Karis's clients, known as community members, are in the program for a minimum of six months, and can stay for up to two years. Karis Community is a place where adults living with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, can restore basic life skills, develop interpersonal and professional skills, and move towards independent living.
Karis's Empowerment Program is serving a unique need in the Denver community. Karis Community is here to stop the cycle of traumatic psychiatric hospitalization, and provide a safe, peer-supported space for adults struggling with mental illness. According to National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 United States adults, or 20% of adults, struggle with a mental illness every year. Last year only 43% of these people received treatment. 1 in 25 United States adults struggle with a severe and persistent mental illness every year, but only 64% of these adults received treatment last year. There is an average of 11 years between onset of a mental illness and treatment, a statistic virtually unheard of for physical illnesses.
Karis also works towards breaking the stigma of mental illness and lowering the barrier to access treatment. While mental illness is being spoken about more in public, there is still immense shame and misinformation surrounding mental illness that often prevents people from receiving care. Karis is a place where everyone is free to be themselves and work through their issues without worrying about how others perceive them. There is robust peer-support at Karis and it provides a platform for people to share their experiences and help one another. Individuals who have completed the program at Karis also have the continued support of the active Alumni Group.
"My Karis Experience will always be one that I remember. The staff and the members of the community have all taken a therapeutic role in my illness. Without them I would not be able to imagine where I would be. I am diagnosed with schizophrenia. I experience audio, visual and tactile hallucinations, which leaves me sometimes questioning my own reality. Over the past year my condition was amplified to a point where it cost me my job, my home and some of my friends. I was moved from place to place and was unable to join other programs. Karis took me in when others wouldn't.
Karis was able to provide me with a living situation where others would understand what I go through. It's embarrassing to admit, but sometimes I catch myself talking to them, the voices. In other environments this could look a little off, where here the community comes to my rescue. Karis has given me some much needed stability to be able to manage these symptoms and I have noticed significant progress in dealing with them.
At this point in my life I don't know what would have happened to me if I wasn't here at Karis. Karis has given me new found friends, much needed therapy sessions and an understanding that I can handle it on my own. I thank Karis, the staff and the members' every day for pulling me out of a nightmare and giving me much needed hope."
-Max, current Community Member