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.
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 is the only community-model residential program with a unique Empowerment Program in all of Colorado. Our model fosters understanding, empathy and a sense of belonging for our residents. Through the course of our Empowerment Program, residents at Karis develop interpersonal skills, achieve personal growth, learn how to live independently and find long-term healing from their mental illness. We aim to provide care to individuals of all income levels and believe that mental health care should be accessible to everyone.
Karis Community (Karis) began under the name of Shalom Community in 1976 as a retreat center for those needing respite from the stressors of life. In 1978 Swanee Hunt and Mark Meeks assumed administration of Shalom Community; the focus shifted to mental health and the name was changed to Karis (the Greek word for grace). The name change was to decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness, and reinforce the truth that everyone deserves to live in an environment where judgement is suspended and the value and worth of each individual is emphasized. Karis is a place where adults struggling with illnesses such as Bipolar Disorder, Major Depression, Anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are nurtured, challenged and launched toward greater independence.
In the United States, an estimated 46.6 million adults (1 in 5) struggle with a mental illness. 11.2 million adults (1 in 25) struggle with a serious mental illness. Less than half of these individuals receive any mental health services or treatment. Individuals with serious and persistent mental illness suffer physical health hazards disproportionately, have less access to health care and have an overall lower quality of life than the general population. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 20 to 25% of the homeless population in the United States suffers from some form of severe mental illness. Mental illness may prevent people from forming and maintaining stable relationships or cause people to misinterpret others' guidance and react irrationally. This often results in pushing away caregivers, family and friends, who may be the force keeping that person from becoming homeless. As a result of these factors and the stresses of living with a mental disorder, people with mentally illnesses are much more likely to become homeless than the general population. A study of people with serious mental illnesses seen by California's public mental health system found that 15% were homeless at least once in a one-year period and those with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder were particularly vulnerable.
The core of Karis Community is the psycho-educational Empowerment Program, administered within a therapeutic community. The community concept is important because by learning to work with, share with, care about, and relate to others, Community Members gain realistic life experience that equips them for integration into the mainstream of life. This learning process is achieved by Community Members through a rigorously monitored program of activities including individual and group counseling sessions, goal setting and daily interaction with staff and fellow Community Members. When it comes to mental health, community is essential. People who come to Karis either discover or rediscover their strengths and develop skills to lead more fulfilling, productive, meaningful and gratifying lives. Karis is their home and family, not an institution. Often, people living with mental illness are isolated from the larger community as well as their families and friends. Community life encourages confidence and skill building, as well as the recognition that contributing to the well-being of others is part of healthy living. Community Members learn to communicate with each other, work together, share their feelings and issues, resolve conflict as well as give and receive feedback from staff and peers. This holistic approach prepares people to re-engage productively in the larger community, to avoid hospitalizations and to live independently.
The Empowerment Program is ongoing. Community Members make a six month commitment, but may stay up to two years as long as they continue to make progress on their goals. The overarching goal of Karis is that at least 80% of Community Members will achieve significant and demonstrable progress in their coping and independent living skills every year. Karis aims to serve a minimum of 35 Community Members per year, and an additional 65-75 former Community Members via our Alumni Group.
"My Karis experience will always be one that I remember. The staff and 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 sometimes leave me 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