Focus, Act, Connect Every-day (FACE) is a group of about 20 people, many of whom have experienced significant life disruptions due to mental illness, substance use, trauma, homelessness, and incarceration, who come together on a biweekly basis to support one another in engaging with the community, including planning activities and events with community partners. These events have included leading mural-making at neighborhood festivals, packing groceries for people in need, and facilitating conversations with community groups. A community organizer and a peer specialist from the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health (PRCH) support the work of the group, though setting the group’s direction and engagement with the broader community are decided by all group members equally.
In our home city of New Haven, FACE has developed a strong relationship with the West River Neighborhood Services Corporation (WRNSC) among other local partners. We began by joining their Saturday morning neighborhood cleanups, and formed relationships with neighborhood residents and grassroots leaders. We built on those relationships by attending the monthly meetings of the neighborhood association. Over time our partnership flourished, and we facilitated connections to park cleanups and the neighborhood community garden, for CMHC clients who live in the area, some in DMHAS-funded residential programs. Several of the community murals FACE has done have been at WRNSC events. FACE members, some of whom live near the West River neighborhood, canvass the neighborhood with WRNSC members to spread the word about their community-building activities and events.
More recently, several FACE members have joined forces with the New Haven chapter of Witnesses to Hunger, a coalition of people who experience food insecurity. Together with other chapter members, FACE members, including several affiliated with the CCC steering committee, have worked to recruit new members, attended planning meetings, spoken at roundtables with elected officials on the federal level, and organized rallies and other events to advocate for policies to better address the upstream causes of food insecurity and economic struggle.