The first drug and alcohol recovery residence for USC students, The Haven, opens Sept. 21 at the University Gateway Apartments. The Haven, which houses the Recovery Grads program, focuses on supporting USC students struggling with addiction and provides a path for them to pursue sobriety while earning their college degree.
“When students experience the freedom of college and are in a culture that celebrates drinking, some of them hit a wall,” The Haven co-founder Holly Sherman said. “They are unable to control their drinking and drug use and end up in treatment, but then so frequently [tbey] can’t come back to school because there’s no safe place to turn.”
The Haven aims to be a comfortable environment for students. Though it is independent from USC, The Haven is strategically located at the University Gateway Apartments because it offers residents a feeling of inclusiveness with the greater student body. The recovery program is centered on providing structure and support for students while showing them they can have the full college experience without using alcohol and drugs.
Recovery Grads program could encounter difficulties on campus, some students said.
“It sounds like it would be great for those individuals,” said James Birks, a graduate student in the Rossier School of Education. “I’m curious to see the challenges it faces since alcohol is prominent on campus, such as at games and tailgates and [on] The Row. I’m also curious as to what type of training the RAs have.”
The Haven has one male and one female house manager to oversee the needs of the residents. The house managers have previous experience dealing with their own personal addictions.
“For me, personally, I am excited to show people that you are able to go to college with addiction,” said The Haven’s male house manager who requested anonymity.
Currently, four students are signed up to live in the apartment complex, but the program has space for 20 students. Students can stay in the program for any length of time.
Program directors expect enrollment to increase after the first students move in and as the need for the initiative rises. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, college students are currently the fastest growing sector of people seeking addiction treatment in the United States.
“Students come through various channels. They can come through the counseling center, as a referral for treatment centers and they can come through word of mouth from the students around campus,” Sherman said. “Because there’s this need, people are starting to just come to us.”
A primary roadblock to reaching more students in need of the program’s services is the stigma surrounding addiction.
“If you have an addiction, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure,” the male house manager said. “Yet if there’s no solution, you are going to fail.”
Despite efforts to instate the Recovery Grads program on other college campuses nationally, USC and the University of Nevada at Reno are the only universities to house the new initiative.
“USC is very forward-thinking and they also really care about their students,” Sherman said. “It’s just an example of how USC implements plans that cares for its students. It’s in alignment with how the university thinks.”
Opinions about the expansion of a program directed at tackling drug and alcohol addiction vary.
“There is more of a party culture on campus than a drug one,” said Johnny de La Cruz, a sophomore majoring in business administration. “There might be a couple of people who use drugs sporadically, but not enough to have a floor for them.”
Despite skepticism among some students about the effectiveness of this program, the male house manager believes The Haven will have a larger impact on the university as a whole.
“It will create greater acceptance of every individual. Because when you have a problem with drugs and alcohol you feel different, you feel estranged, you feel isolated and alone,” he said. “This program closes that gap. We hope to help people that are feeling alone and show them love to help cultivate their life.”
For more information about The Haven, students can contact 310-822-1234.