by Elizabeth McMeekin, Director of Operations, Recovery Café DC
[Editor’s note: the Recovery Café model is membership-based. Members are those most closely held community members in each of the 61 Cafés across the US and Canada. In the first quarter of 2023, 4,000 Members participated in programming at those Cafés. Quinntez’s story includes his participation as a Member of Recovery Café DC (in Washington, DC).]
Quinntez Washington describes the journey to his current role working with So Others Might Eat as a “full circle moment.”
Quinntez’s recovery began at Regional Addiction Prevention (RAP) Inc., a residential treatment center in Washington, DC. About a month later, as he considered his next steps, Quinntez chose to participate in a long-term recovery program offered by Catholic Charities at the 801 Men’s Shelter.
While other long-term recovery programs offered more secluded settings, Quinntez specifically chose 801 because he saw it as an opportunity to deepen his experience and skills in navigating long-term recovery in a context that would expose him to real-life challenges.
At the 801 Shelter
While at the 801 Men’s Shelter, Quinntez met Donald Conerly, Cofounder and Program Director of Recovery Café DC (RCDC). Through his connection with Donald, and other relationships he made at 801, Quinntez began to integrate his spirituality with his recovery journey.
He also found that others at the shelter turned to him for assistance with applications for housing, insurance, food stamps, or unemployment, or for help with reading or class assignments. Even staff members turned to Quinntez for support while working with residents.
When asked how he attained the know-how to offer this type of support, he replied that being drug- and alcohol-free opened his mind to think logically. He was able to become who he had always been; he also began to recognize, and become confident in, his own competency. In his words, “It was a chance to experience my humanity again!”
Another important support for Quinntez’s recovery journey came through a group of volunteers from Back on My Feet. These men introduced him to 6:00 am walking and running groups—an important and valuable behavior change—as well as a host of other opportunities to learn new skills, restore and/or rebuild credit, and more.
Education, Employment, and Housing
Quinntez also decided to resume his studies. With the encouragement of a counselor, he applied to the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and started taking three classes a week in early 2021. He also learned about a job opening at So Others Might Eat (SOME)—a job that would use many of the skills he had built serving his fellow residents at 801. He applied, interviewed for the job, and soon began working at the Karin House Senior Center.
With both his studies and his new job underway, Quinntez started thinking about finding a home. He heard about and contacted Samaritan Inns. [Killian Noe, cofounder of the Recovery Café Network, also cofounded Samaritan Inns.] He was approved and, in February of 2022, moved into a single room occupancy apartment.
Quinntez continues to attend classes every week and expects to complete his Bachelors in Social Work in 2025. He also works full-time with senior men at SOME’s facilities. He recently brought some of those men to Recovery Café DC to attend Recovery Circles. He hopes to deepen the connections between the Café and SOME, so that the men can see and be encouraged by Donald’s experience and passion for recovery in the same way he was.
This is indeed a “full circle moment!”
Thank you to Quinntez Washington, Elizabeth McMeekin, and Jacqueline Conerly (Chief Executive Officer of Recovery Café DC) for this story!