“Be yourself.” It’s what we’re all taught from an early age. When you get a little older you find out the world around you doesn’t make that so easy.
Taboos are stubborn. And even as we get more comfortable talking about sensitive or personal subjects — it can feel daunting to open up.
That’s where the idea of “safe space” comes in. It’s maybe a more common practice in psychotherapy and counseling. But it’s emerging in public spaces too. And just in time. The world isn’t getting less complicated. And it can be confusing, particularly around questions of sex, sexuality and sexual health. All the more so for kids.
In Lafayette, there’s a safe space to get answers about all that. It’s called Safe Havynn. Courtney Celestine is Safe Havynn’s marketing director.
The idea behind Safe Havynn is to give teens a place where they can talk about sex. The bedrock principle here is whether we like it or not, kids are learning about sex and acting on it. The data doesn’t lie. Louisiana ranks among the highest in the nation for rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. It’s not easy to talk about sex, especially with adults. So Safe Havynn creates a space where kids can ask questions without the weight of moralizing.
Safe Havynn is a nonprofit and is funded by grants. Outside of its space in Downtown Lafayette, Safe Havynn works with schools and local courts.
It’s still hard to talk about sex. And it’s still very hard to talk about mental health. We’re getting better at it, but we’ve got a long way to go. Far too many people struggling with debilitating mental health problems often wind up isolated. Here’s the problem: Isolation is about the worst thing that can happen to them.
Enter Focus Clubhouse. The program at Focus Clubhouse creates a working environment for folks with mental health problems to develop real-world skills and stay connected. Clubhouse members operate the clubhouse itself, helping with everything from cooking and cleaning, to outreach, intake and fundraising.
The program is totally voluntary. It gives people a place to go, where they can be understood — and valued.
Lafayette’s Focus Clubhouse chapter was started by Clarice Gallegos and her son Brian. Brian stabilized from a life in and out of homelessness by attending a Clubhouse in Florida. The Lafayette chapter has grown since 2020 to include 55 members.
Out to Lunch Acadiana is recorded live over lunch at Tula Tacos and Amigos in downtown Lafayette. Photos by Astor Morgan.