At least twice a week, Ted Neill catches up with friends or plays cards in the busy dining room of Recovery Cafe, a Denny Regrade center dedicated to addiction recovery and mental health support for Seattle’s homeless. Neill has never been addicted to drugs or alcohol, yet here he’s at home.
His road to the Recovery Cafe began on a day in 2012 when the global health worker, in the throes of job loss and clinical depression, picked up a knife and considered suicide. As he treated his own mental health in an Atlanta psych ward, surrounded by addicts, he felt embraced by their 12-step program. “They just poured into me,” he says—their love, hope, and laughter. “They helped me get my hope back.”
Newly employed, Neill moved to Seattle in 2014 and looked to volunteer support to the recovery community. In Recovery Cafe he found an organization that has addressed Seattle’s twin scourges of homelessness and addiction since 2003. Members at least 24 hours sober flock to a cheerful space brimming with community, classes, housing referrals, two daily meals, and a latte hour, plus therapeutic recovery circles.
“He is humble…and he has awakened to his own healing journey,” says Carolyn Dougherty, community engagement manager. On his regular shifts he hangs with members and leads school groups of young volunteers; at closing time he stacks chairs and mops floors so staff can leave—he remembers nonprofit burnout. Now a full-time writer with an upcoming memoir, he spends two weekdays serving the people he considers family. “Here I can bring my ordinary self and that’s enough,” he says. At Recovery Cafe, it’s more than enough.