The Haven at College: USF’s First Sober Living Community

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Rafael JM Herrero
Contributing Writer

The Haven is a creamy stucco building with Spanish red tiles overlooking Fulton Street. It is a brand new dorm based on a ground-breaking concept. Right on campus, it welcomes USF students who have struggled with substance abuse and who are willing to continue living a substance-free lifestyle. It’s part of a family of centers which were founded in 2012. Such programs are currently in place at the University of Southern California, Drexel University, University of Redlands, and UC Santa Barbara, but USF is offering The Haven in 2015 for the first time. It is the first Jesuit Haven.

The Haven is not just a dorm, it’s a warm space with a community feel that offers social connections and activities a few steps away from the classroom. It also offers several weekly on-site meetings ― some in the 12-step format, others one-on-one ― that help USF students stay on-track.

The USF Haven just opened for residents between the ages of 18 and 25. Its first students moved in on Aug. 22. Seven USF students are already living in the spacious and colorful rooms of The Haven, but others are still welcome to apply, as they have an occupancy limit of nine.

The Haven hosted their first open house this past Wednesday, Sept. 9. Ted Hemberger, one of the two house managers, welcomed guests in the trimmed green garden in front of the cottage and student dorm. “This is where we’ll be having our Friday barbecues,” said Hemberger as he pointed at an area behind the cottage just a few steps away from McLaren Conference Center.

House managers have a similar role to an RA. In The Haven’s more established locations, house managers are typically graduate students, but as USF is only in its first year, the position is held by two young people in recovery, Hemberger and his counterpart Carly Gregory.

“This place is awesome,” said Conor, one of The Haven’s residents. Conor, an NYC native and USF freshman, added, “They’re not too strict. It’s just the right amount of accountability and community. I can live a college life and have the structure to live sober.”

A supporter of the program who was present during the open house echoed Conor’s feelings. “The Haven is an enlightened way of staying engaged in your college education and finding a solution to your issues at the same time. It’s a new recovery model. It’s magic,” said the man, who preferred to remain anonymous.

Dr. Lisa Koshkarian is the Clinical Psychologist for the residents in The Haven House. Her responsibilities include interviewing each candidate who applies to The Haven, holding weekly meetings with the residents, and overseeing drug testing on a weekly basis to make sure they have not relapsed. Koshkarian says that students may have used any type of substance, from pharmaceutical medications to street drugs like heroin. When asked about ridding oneself of substance dependence, Koshkarian said, “Human connection, care, and bond are central.”

Gregory summed up the way she hopes her residents will eventually feel towards the living community. She said, “We have to break the stigma that drinking and doing drugs is cool. I use to ask myself, how am I gonna have fun if I’m sober? If anything, being sober has made my life bigger and more fun.”

Photo courtesy of Ted Hemberger and Carly Gregory

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