Afiya Peer Respite
Afiya is the first peer-run respite in Massachusetts and one of only a few dozen in the country.
Afiya (A-FEE-yah) is a Swahili word that means “physical, emotional and spiritual health and wholeness.”
Northampton, MA – Off King St near Big Y.
Request to stay at Afiya
Phone Only: 413-570-2990
Peer Support Line
888.407.4515 (Do Not Leave A Voice Mail)
Email Director (Not for requesting to stay)
Afiya strives to provide a space in which each person can find the balance and support needed to turn a difficult time into a learning and growth opportunity. We prioritize offering an alternative to/supporting people to avoid psychiatric hospitalization and other more invasive/disruptive interventions.
- Regular house with 3 private bedrooms that lock from the inside
- Stays are up to 7 nights
- Open to anyone who is 18 or older with an address in Western or Central MA (call us with questions about this)
- Come and go as you please
- 24/7 peer support available
- No curfew, meetings, or other restrictions
- Minimal paperwork
- FREE (no insurance required)
- We have a full-time spanish-speaking advocate
- Ramp to entrance
- One first floor accessible room and accessible bathroom
- First floor kitchen, living room, and TV room
- Laundry and second TV room are in the basement and not accessible
- Other two rooms and second bathroom up one flight of stairs
- We encourage people to not bring or wear fragrances at the house (Chemical cleaning products are being used during COVID-19)
- ASL interpretation available on request.
- .3 miles from a school
- .3 miles from a bus stop
- Transportation available from most places in Western Mass
- Masks need to be worn at ALL TIMES in the house unless someone is alone in their bedroom, are outside or are eating/drinking while sitting.
- Full kitchen with staple foods provided
- Living Room
- TV Room
- Second TV Room in partially finished basement
- House Phone
- House computer (sometimes used by advocates)
- Art supplies
- Musical instruments
- Weighted blankets
- Large back yard with garden
- Smoking area
COVID NOTICE: If people staying or working in the house show symptoms consistent with COVID and/or if there’s been a known exposure, we may need to ask people to take rapid COVID tests as a condition of staying/working in the house. (We will provide the test.) In the event that there are positive COVID tests for people working or staying in the house (determined based on the specifics of that situation, how many positives and exposures, etc.), we may need to close, and will need everyone’s cooperation in leaving the house at that time.
Everyone working at Afiya identifies as having lived experience with some combination of extreme emotional or altered states, psychiatric diagnoses, trauma, living without a home, navigating the mental health and other systems, being on benefits, addictions, surviving abuse, and more.
We believe that the wisdom gained from our lived experiences is invaluable, and sharing stories has great potential to create connection and support for others on their own journeys.
What you get while staying at Afiya:
- Your own private bedroom, with unlimited access to common spaces.
- The ability to come and go as you choose, all stays are completely voluntary.
- Access to basic community food items, and the ability to store your own food items if you prefer.
- Access to visitors in designated spaces to protect the privacy of others. (No outside visitors during COVID-19)
- An opportunity to rest and re-group, you determine your wake, sleep and eating times.
- Access to 1:1 peer support, as well as the opportunity to connect as a group or individually with others staying at the peer respite as you desire.
- Access to a variety of items including books, art supplies and more.
- An opportunity to learn about and/or access local resources.
- Uninterrupted access to your own existing supports and scheduled activities. That means if you have a therapist you like, friends to see, pets to care for, a job that you wish to keep working, you may do so throughout your stay.
- Support to brainstorm, take action and establish next steps for when you leave the respite.
- Access to community bridging. Before, during, and after your stay you will have access to our community bridger, who can help with appointments, accessing resources, benefits, additional peer support, some transportation, do fun things with you, and more.
A note about peer support community
Your experience at Afiya may vary depending on a number of factors including who else is staying at the house and how busy things are at that time. Our philosophy is that everyone at the house has the capacity to give and receive support, whether they are paid to be there or staying. Support and healing connections sometimes develop between two people staying at the house if both people want that.
Some people go to look for conversation and active exploration of ideas, while others may go primarily to get rest and quiet. You can expect some 1:1 support time with our team during each visit, however the needs of everyone staying in the house together will shape what that looks like from day to day.
- If you take medications, please know that we are not able to hold or handle them. We will provide you with a safe to keep them yourself or you can have your friends, family, or paid supports visit to help you.
- We are not able to accommodate stays longer than seven nights.
- We do not offer any clinical supports such as therapy or psychiatric services, though we may be able to help you connect to those services if you desire.
- Our ability to offer transportation is limited. We will do our best to be creative in working with you to get where you need to go, but ability to offer transportation is limited by budget and time.
How to Access Afiya
The process for accessing Afiya is pretty straight forward: It’s a conversation.
If you are someone who is interested in staying at Afiya, give us a call. We’ll share with you some information about what Afiya offers, as well as what isn’t available. We’ll ask you what’s going on for you in the moment and how you hope Afiya might be helpful. Then we’ll talk together about whether it seems like a good fit for you and for the house, and make a decision.
What to expect, from start to finish
- You call Afiya and inquire about staying there.
- If there’s not space, the person you’re speaking with will let you know that and will offer to talk with you about other potential resources.
- If there is space, usually on our short waiting list, the person you’re speaking with will give you an overview of the process and ask you to share something about what’s going on for you in the moment.
- You will be offered an opportunity to ask questions and will be provided some basic information about what to expect at Afiya.
- You will also be asked what you are hoping your stay at Afiya would look like.
- Once you and the person you’re speaking with feel like you’re both satisfied with the information that has been shared with one another, they will ask you for your thoughts on whether or not Afiya still seems like a good fit for you.
- At that point, the person you’re speaking with will check in with a third person. This is not a time when two people go off and talk about you behind a closed door. Instead, this is just intended as a back-up to make sure that all questions have been asked and enough information has been given in both directions and that everyone is fully supported in their role.
- If there are any follow up questions or clarifications, they will be asked at this time.
- You will then talk through a decision together about coming into the house.
- If you will not be coming to the house, you will be offered an opportunity to talk about other potential resources.
- If you are coming to the house, usually you will be placed on our short waiting list and notified when your room becomes available.
- While on the waiting list, you will have access to our Community Bridger, who can begin offering peer support, some transportation, help with resources, benefits, doing fun things, and more.
- Once we call you to come in, we will go over how and when you will arrive, and offer a reminder of what to bring: clothes, personal care items, preferred food items, etc.
- At the end of your stay (up to 7 nights), you will check out and be offered a feedback survey.
- You will have ongoing access to our Community Bridger for the next 30 days.
Providers and Family
In peer support, we do not talk about the details of other peoples’ struggles without them present. If you’re a provider, family member or friend of someone who you think should come to stay at Afiya, we will be happy to talk with you briefly and answer any general questions you might have. In order to talk about someone’s particular situation, we will need to speak to that person directly.
The number to reach Afiya is (413) 570-2990. Please do be aware that we may not always be able to answer the phone if we’re on another call or spending time with people in the house. Just try back in a bit and we’ll answer as soon as we can.
Donations for Afiya
Afiya is a community project, and we need your support to see it develop to its full potential.
We particularly welcome the following items:
- Unopened/unused personal care products (toothbrushes, shampoo, hand lotion, soap, etc. (Unscented please)
- Gift cards to local supermarkets (Big Y, Stop & Shop or River Valley Market)
- Art supplies
- Reading materials (particularly fiction)
- Clothing in adult sizes and in good condition
- Unopened food items (coffee, snack bars, nuts, soups and other non-perishables are especially helpful!)
- Fresh fruits and veggies
If you would like to make a donation to Afiya, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you are interested in donating and the best way to reach you!
Monetary donations are also welcome and can be made by check as follows: Write the donation out to the ‘Western Mass Training Consortium’ with ‘for Afiya’ noted in the memo line and direct the check to 187 High Street, Suite 204 Holyoke, MA 01040 to the attention of Sera Davidow. You may also use the paypal link at the bottom of this web page.
Additional Questions, Policies, and Guidelines
- We are asking everybody whether they have symptoms or have been exposed to anyone who has symptoms before coming to the house.
- If someone becomes sick during there stay we are asking them to leave.
- Everyone staying is expected to share in disinfecting the space.
- Masks will be provided if needed.
- Washer and dryer available for cleaning masks.
- Everyone at the house is expected to have a mask on their person and wear it when moving around the house.
- Masks need to be worn at ALL TIMES in the house unless someone is alone in their bedroom, are outside or are eating/drinking while sitting.
- If we have a positive case of Covid 19 at the house, we will have to close for a period of time and need folks cooperation with leaving the space at that time.
- We are having individual conversations with everyone about mask wearing and their specific wishes.
- Masks and gloves must be used while in the kitchen cooking and handling communal food.
- No one is expected to wear a mask when alone in the house.
- Room Limitations
- 1 person in the sitting room at a time.
- 1 person in the kitchen at a time, people are asked to negotiate kitchen use.
- 1 person in hallways at a time.
- 3 people in dev/tv room at a time
- 4 people in the community room / green living room at a time
- 3 people in the basement at a time.
Service animals that has been trained (or are in training) to do work or perform a specific task that that person is unable to do on their own, are welcome at Afiya as long as they stay with the person and under control at all times. We are currently unable to accommodate emotional support pets who may offer comfort, but are not trained to do work or perform a specific task in the way that service animals are trained to do.
Pets are welcome to visit in the yard, and you are free to come and go to take care of pets at home. We may even be able to help find a volunteer to look after your pets while you stay with us. If you have any questions or concerns about your animals please let us know in your initial conversation about staying.
Additionally, we may be able to accommodate visits from pets, though this may be limited to the backyard or other designated areas based on the needs of the others in the house.
Children and Partners
Children and partners are welcome to visit you in the common areas of the house. Please let us know if we should expect this when you have your initial conversation. We are not able to have children or multiple people stay overnight.
Afiya is primarily funded by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, but you do not need to receive DMH services to stay.
There are about 10 people who are a part of the Afiya team including a Peer Respite Director, Assistant Director, a Senior Advocate, and several full time and per diem peer advoates. Regardless of their titles, all paid workers play the same role when offering support in the house. Additionally, volunteers, interns, and other Wildflower Alliance team members sometimes be at the house to help out.
There will always be at least one and generally no more than three team members working at the house at a time.
Afiya keeps a three person waiting list. One spot for each room. That means that once someone is on the waiting list, they are guaranteed access to a room within seven days. If there is not room on the waiting list, we ask people to call back once or twice a day until we have a spot for you.
We understand this process is sometimes inconvenient or impossible for someone experiencing a hard time, and welcome support in advocating for more peer respite bedrooms in Massachusetts.
Near Afiya you will find
- Employment support
- Bike Path
- Gas station
- Town Library
About Northampton, MA
Northampton is an active college town based in the Connecticut River Valley of Western Massachusetts. There are many shops and restaurants within the downtown area and a large shopping plaza a short walk from Afiya. For more information on Northampton, visit the city’s webpage.
Friends, families, and medical support are welcome at Afiya. Out of respect for peoples’ privacy, we ask that they stay in specific common areas. Visitors are not allowed in bedrooms. There are no particular visiting hours, though visitors are asked to visit during usual waking hours and for reasonable lengths of time. We ask that the focus of the visit be about connecting with and supporting the person staying at Afiya, and not just to hang out or use our resources like food and computers.
People staying at Afiya will also be supported to refuse visitors as they wish.
You are welcome to visit the house with notice. The wishes of the people staying at the house will always be prioritized, so even if we schedule ahead, access may be limited or not possible at times.
Paperwork and Files
When you first come to the house, you will be asked to review and sign HIPAA paperwork (pertaining to your rights to privacy), and to review and sign a basic entrance acknowledgement that details some important information about the house and your stay there. You will also be offered some basic information including Afiya’s mission and values and local resources that you’re welcome to keep and review. Additionally, you will be offered an optional ‘Preferred Contact and Support’ form that you may complete if you want us to be aware of particular details regarding your own preferences, emergency contacts, etc.
You are also welcome to bring and share any wellness plans or other information about yourself but we will not request this from you.
Finally, we will work with you to note a basic ‘hope for stay’ which may be as simple as, “I hope to use my time here to rest and regain my balance.” You will have the opportunity to note your progress on whatever hopes you list as you go.
It is our value to minimize paperwork as we see it creating a power dynamic that is not keeping with effective peer-to-peer relationships. However, our funding source requires these items at this time.
- Stored files will only contain a HIPAA signature page, an entrance acknowledgement for each stay, and a ‘hopes for stay’ form.
- You will be in charge of how the ‘hopes for stay’ form gets developed during your stay.
- You will receive a copy of any paperwork you request when you leave.
- Your file will be kept in a manila folder in a locked cabinet in the basement when you are not at the house (it is kept in a locked file cabinet on the first floor when you are in the house).
- People working at Afiya will NOT review your file when you come to stay at the house again. They will learn about you only through the connection you develop during your present stay unless you specifically request to review something from a past stay with them.
NOTE: If there is a serious issue during your stay that results in us giving you a written notice, then we will keep a copy of that notice in our safe to remind our team to revisit the situation when you request to stay again.
Alcohol and Drugs
Afiya supports a harm reduction approach. Our team is available to discuss active drug use, sobriety and anything in between.
We also are holding a trauma-sensitive space for many people who have experience drug-related violence and addictions in the past. Therefore, please do not use alcohol or drugs in the house, or hang out in the common spaces while intoxicated or smelling of alcohol or drugs.
Spanish and Other Languages
We strive to have at least one Spanish-speaker on the team at all times. For other languages and days when that person is not available, we have a contract with a translation company that we can access via video call.
Emergency Services, Crisis, and Police
We believe strongly in self-determination and avoiding forced treatment or involving police in most situations. It will always be your choice to call or not call crisis services.
The only times we call 911 ourselves are during a medical emergency or when someone has assaulted or threatened another person in the house. We have, rarely, called the non-emergency police line for support with persistent trespassers, stalkers, etc.
Any time that we call emergency services or 911 there is an immediate review and debrief of the full situation (including a conversation with the person for whom 911 or emergency services was called, when possible) so as to better understand it, and explore how to avoid it in the future.
We do not consent to police entering the house. If they are looking for someone and refuse to leave, we may request that person go with them to avoid the trauma of an ongoing conflict or having the house searched.
The Wildflower Alliance believes in self-determination and informed consent around psychiatric drugs. We will support you in getting the information and resources you need to have your voice and choice heard by providers, friends, and family, whether that means adding, reducing, or stopping medications. Support may also include attending appointments together with you as an advocate, and thinking through what you need in place to reach your whatever your personal goal is.
Food and Cooking
We keep basics like bread, peanut butter, coffee, tea, nuts, canned goods, soups and so on. We go shopping weekly or bi-weekly for other items, but have a very limited budget. Items will vary. We try to make sure we have something for everyone, including people who are vegetarian or vegan. As much as possible, we’ll also try to consider the preferences of people staying in the house when we are doing food shopping, but our flexibility will be limited by our budget. It’s a good idea for you to also bring food with you if there are particular items you want to make sure to have on hand.
There is no regular preparation of meals by people working at Afiya. At times, people working at Afiya will make something to share or invite others to cook together. In general, you will are responsible for preparing your own food.
Reasons we Turn People Away
There are limits to who we can accept based on our mission, funding, and capacity. We will not be able to offer you a room if:
- You are under 18
- You have a primary address outside of Western/Central Mass (call us with questions about this one)
- You have medical needs that you cannot manage on your own (outside suppor you arrange is welcome but we cannot handle medication or provide other support)
- You cannot prepare your own food or evacuate yourself in case of a fire
- You are restricted from residing near a school (usually due to being on the level 3 sex offender list)
- You don’t abide by our values and expectations during your stay at the house (what you do in the rest of your life is your business and we do not judge based on past behavior).
People who are living without a home are welcome at Afiya as long as they identify as being in emotional distress and want a peer support space. Please note that due to lack of adequate housing resources in the area and the limit on the length of stay at the house – people who come in homeless often leave still homeless. We will not extend stays for this reason.