Magazine article The Christian Century

Recovery Cafe

Magazine article The Christian Century

Recovery Cafe

Article excerpt


ORGANIZATIONS committed to helping the addicted and the homeless can be found in every city. Few of them resemble the Recovery Cafe. As founder Killian Noe told me, "It looks like a Starbucks."

Sure enough, the site is painted in welcoming and trendy bright blue and red, with exposed pipes in the ceiling and with gobs of sunshine (at least by Seattle standards) pouring through the glass front wall.

Some of the people who wander into this inviting space in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood aren't necessarily looking to shed their addictions or receive help amid their homelessness. "Many come just because they're hungry," said Noe.

They're in the right place: the coffee is always hot, and soup and salad are available at mealtimes. If visitors want to become a member of the community, they need only to have been clean and sober for one day. "That gives them an incentive not to use for 24 hours," explained Noe. They also have to join a small group to which they're accountable. There are myriad recovery groups they can be part of. There is also what the cafe calls its School for Recovery, where students can take classes that meet five days a week for an entire semester. "We even have graduates and a dean now," Noe said.

The Recovery Cafe was started in 2004 by the New Creation Community, an ecumenical group that Noe began when she moved to the area in 1999. It pursues the combination of contemplation and activism modeled by the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C. When she lived in that city, Noe, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, founded and ran Samaritan Inns, which helped homeless people recover from addiction and find housing.

Noe's gracious spirit, infectious laugh and quick smile fill the cafe. I noticed that she offered an encouraging word to everyone in the place.

A man named Don, with the disheveled manner and stilted speech of an addict but the intent gaze and light manner of a recovered one, greeted me at the door. "I'd be dead if not for this place," he told me. "No doubt in my mind." Now he's able to give back. "They trust me with the keys, to open and close, to get the food ready, sometimes all by myself." Another man, Leo, said he has a habit of disappearing for months at a time. "Now, if I'm not here a while, people notice. I have to call if I'm going away."

Cora told me she's been clean and sober "21 years and eight months. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.