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Satori House clients to clean up Goodyear Park in Portage

Noah VernauMay 8, 2019

Clients and leaders of a sober living facility that opened near downtown Portage in December will clean up Goodyear Park on May 25-26 and welcome members of the community to pitch in.

Satori House owner Jake Niesen sought the service opportunity for his clients after the Portage Family Skate Park canceled an Earth Day cleanup at the park April 27 due to cold and rainy weather.

“Being active in the community is a huge part of the sobriety process,” Niesen said of the cleanup he is organizing with skate park President Kyle Little. “It helps them to really stop worrying about yourself all of the time — stop thinking about what you want and what you need and start working with other people.”

Satori House typically houses its maximum capacity of six male clients who enroll in a 6-month program to help them overcome substance abuse issues, Niesen said. About seven total clients and leaders from the recovery home will clean up the park both days.

People who want to help the Satori House at Goodyear Park may contact Little at 608-697-5960.

“I think the Satori House is a great fit for Portage and (the event) sets a great example for our younger generations who use the skate park,” Little said. “Teens, young adults — they need to see what happens when you go down the wrong path, but also see that people can change.”

On March 24, Satori House clients supported River Haven homeless shelter at the spaghetti fundraiser hosted by Portage Presbyterian Church and, on May 18, they’ll participate in a kickball tournament in Monona to benefit Camp Createability, a video and entertainment program for people with autism and other disabilities.

When asked why community service is a big part of the recovery home’s programming, Niesen quoted the Swiss-English journalist Johann Hari, who once said, “The opposite of addiction is connection.” He said he believes overcoming addiction often is a matter of “connecting to something bigger than yourself” and that “getting out of your own head is the answer for a lot of people.”

Satori House is set to graduate its first client at the end of May and its second client at the end of June, Niesen said. After some early struggles in finding work locally, Niesen reported his clients have since secured and held on to good jobs during their respective stays.

Clients have adapted well to Satori House’s recovery programming, Niesen said, and the support the recovery home has received from the Portage community remains strong.

But one problem for his clients has been finding “that younger sobriety crowd” to connect with outside of the home.

“There is an age gap at their local sobriety meetings,” Niesen said. “It’s not like Madison or Milwaukee, where they have these huge meetings with younger people, and so they do sometimes have a harder time relating to the people there.

“It’s a hurdle, but that’s another reason why we get them out of the house for activities like (the cleanup) as much as possible.”

Niesen — who splits his time between Portage and Milwaukee, where he works for a steel company — said he still plans to open a Portage recovery home for females by the end of this year and that it should be operating sometime in 2020.

“It’s definitely going to happen; it’s just a matter of when,” Niesen said of opening the second Satori House, which he’s open to renting or purchasing. “I’ve been saving up for it.”

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