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March 2, 2024

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Couve Collective gathers strength: Vancouver nonprofit helps those experiencing homelessness, substance-use disorders, more

It will celebrate its second birthday in March

By , Columbian staff reporter
Published:
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Attendees work on stamping their words of intention for 2024 onto keychains Jan. 3 at Couve Collective.
Attendees work on stamping their words of intention for 2024 onto keychains Jan. 3 at Couve Collective. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Twinkle lights and soft couches create a cozy atmosphere inside a building on the edge of downtown Vancouver that houses the nonprofit Couve Collective.

“We want it to feel like home when you walk into the doors,” said Christa Gerdes, a coordinator at the nonprofit.

Couve Collective serves people in recovery for substance-use disorders. Founders Felicia Hubach and Karen Peterson formerly worked at Sea Mar Community Health Centers together. They wanted to create a space where people could experience long-term community in a comfortable environment supportive of their goals.

In March, the nonprofit will celebrate its second birthday.

“We just started sharing our dream of how we would want to impact the community,” Hubach said. “So that’s where Couve Collective was born.”

Couve Collective

Where: 1009 W. 13th St., Vancouver.

Hours: 2-6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 2-8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 2-8 p.m. Saturday.

Information: 564-208-0608; couvecollective.org

Couve Collective is part of the Recovery Café network, a collection of organizations statewide that serve people experiencing homelessness, substance-use disorders and other mental health challenges.

Building connection

Couve Collective offers recovery circles, craft workshops and assorted outings for members. Members don’t have to pay. They agree to stay clean and sober while participating and also commit to about an hour each week using a resource at Couve Collective.

“We believe that everyone is in recovery for something,” Gerdes said. “You don’t necessarily have to be in recovery for substances. It could be trauma, relationships, food, loneliness — literally anything. We’re just here to build that community with anyone.”

Kyle Peterson, operation manager and co-founder, said the hourlong commitment helps build connection among members.

“One of the big things is building connection, because connection is important especially when you’ve had trauma and grief that you’re dealing with,” Peterson said. “When you’re just trying to survive, you’ve built up those walls. And we hope (this is) a place where we start to erode those slowly but surely.”

Peterson himself is in recovery. While in treatment, he pledged to maintain a recovery community. But once he left, it was hard for him to find that connection elsewhere, he said. That’s why he wanted to create such a community at Couve Collective.

The nonprofit offers meals on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. And it recently rolled out an initiative called SAGA, which stands for support, accountability, goals and authenticity. SAGA is a nine-month commitment focused on the skills needed for a healthy and full life, said Gerdes, the program’s coordinator.

“Building trust with people — especially if you live on the streets — can be so difficult. So being (someone) people can trust really makes me feel honored and grateful,” Gerdes said.

SAGA cohorts range from five to 12 people, Gerdes said. During the 2½-hour meetings, SAGA members talk about health, boundaries, communication and how to build good habits, among other skills.

“We start kind of at the surface level and keep digging deeper and deeper. The amount of growth we have seen has been astronomical,” Gerdes said. “My heart grows bigger every time I think about it.”

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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