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Plans delayed for cafe-style recovery center in downtown Rifle


Plans for a recovery center in Rifle have been delayed due to zoning complications.

Gabe Cohen, 50, had originally planned to open a storefront to help people struggling with trauma, addiction, homelessness and other mental health challenges in downtown Rifle. Called Discovery Cafe, Cohen said the facility would provide nutritious meals, recovery classes and various other activities for members who are at least 24 hours sober.

However, after making a $900 deposit with the landlord and applying fresh paint to the interior walls, Cohen was told he had to find some place else to open the cafe.



“It’s disheartening,” Cohen said. “It sucks.”

Rifle City Planner II Brian Rusche explained that Cohen did not contact the city first regarding the specific use of the storefront.



“What we do with any project that comes in, if someone has an idea and has a location, we see what they’re looking to do with the zoning code and see if it fits in the zone,” he said.

“That’s why we encourage people who are opening businesses or anything like that to contact us first and to talk through what their ideas are to see if that fits within our codes,” Rusche said.

Other nonprofit entities in Rifle that also provide free social services include places like LIFT-UP, Reach Out Colorado and St. Mary’s Catholic Church, among others.

Currently, Cohen is looking for a new location to open Discovery Cafe in Rifle.

A STORY OF RESILIENCE

Navigating homelessness can require all sorts of dangerous activities, Cohen said.

“What I knew how to do well was survive on the street,” he said. “I didn’t know how to get into society and maintain. You could drop me off anywhere and I feel like I could survive.”

Without a place to live with a persistent drug habit, Cohen, 50, remembers spending his vagrant days middle-manning drug deals to get high for free, committing petty theft and keeping tabs on where the nearest soup kitchen was.

“It’s that vicious cycle of, I could get on my feet, get a couple months clean, get an apartment, get a job, relapse, go back to jail, lose my apartment, lose everything, get out, be homeless,” Cohen said. “I was homeless several times.”

Cohen became addicted to cocaine when he was 15 years old. Cohen said he went to therapy and classes to rid himself of the cycle.

Now a recovering cocaine addict, multiple felon and someone who’s flipped his life upside down 180 degrees, “the life” has compelled this New Castle resident to pursue opening the Discovery Cafe.

He looks to help other Garfield County residents struggling with afflictions like drug addiction, homelessness and mental health issues.

The “Discovery Cafe” aims to deliver a community of belonging to its members, said Cohen. Intervention elements such as recovery meetings, peer-to-peer support classes and daily nutritional meals, among other amenities, will be provided to people that fall in these categories.

“It’s not a crash pad for people that are out there getting high that want to come in and get warm and get something to eat,” Cohen said. “I’m not going to not feed somebody if they’re hungry, but to be a member you’ve got to be sober, you’ve got to attend a recovery meeting and you’ve got to help run the cafe.”

So far, Cohen has been approved to receive a $50,000 grant through the Recovery Cafe organization, a Seattle-based network that has more than 20 cafes around the country. He said those funds will help support the upcoming Discovery Cafe in Rifle.

Cohen said the Sonlight Foursquare Church has also helped with the fundraising process.

In addition, once the cafe opens — the plan is some time next year, Cohen noted – he said it won’t just be open to those without a home, drug addicts and people with mental issues. The cafe will also be open to lower-income people who simply need a place to go and a bite to eat.

“My mission is to be obedient to my calling,” Cohen said. “I believe this is what God wants me to do right now… I didn’t plan it, but I’m going with it.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

Cohen has already found several prospects as to where the Discovery Cafe should find its home.

He said a church community meeting this past Saturday has prompted people to propose their ideas on where the cafe should go in Rifle.

“I’m basically waiting for people to get back to me,” Cohen said.

rerku@citizentelegram.com


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