A year after it was initially proposed, the Cornell Sober House — located at 216 Dearborn Place — has opened its doors to students, acting as a safe space for Cornellians to support each other in recovering from substance abuse.
The house, which currently has four residents, officially opened this semester. The space is one of the newest cooperative living communities on campus and is entirely student-run, according Lena Ransohoff ’17, president of the Cornell Sober Housing Board of Directors.
The property was purchased by G.P Zurenda MBA ’88 and his wife last December and was created in collaboration with Sober@Cornell, an organization that provides support for students in sobriety, Ransohoff said.
Prof. William Sonnensthul, organizational behavior, one of Sober@Cornell’s advisors, said the house aims to help students who are in recovery from substance abuse stay in recovery and maintain their sobriety. Even though the house has only just opened, he said many people have advocated for its existence for years.
“[The Cornell community has] needed this program for a very long time,” Sonnensthul said. “It should be seen as a critical component for any collegiate recovery program.”
Of the small group of students dependent on alcohol, very few will actually seek out treatment and support, according to Sonnensthul.
“The vision of the Sober House is to reach out to the rest of the Cornell Community and say that ‘Here are students who are in recovery, and if you have a problem with alcohol and drugs, we are here to help,’” he said.
Ransohoff explained that the house provides a social support system where students can foster friendships with others in a similar situation, and offers a safe space from the stigmatization of substance and alcohol abuse. She stressed that the house is geared toward those who are fully committed to becoming and staying sober, and not those who are skeptical about their decision.
Grant Jardine ’16, a member of the Cornell Sober Housing Board of Directors, said one of the most fulfilling aspects of opening in the house has been “seeing people living healthily, treating each other well and growing together.”
The house is unaffiliated with the University, despite its North Campus location, according to Ransohoff. She added affiliation would have conferred benefits such as financial assistance and maintenance, but the house would have lost its “sense of autonomy.”
“We are still coming into our own as a community and as a house,” she said. “We are definitely working with Cornell administrators, people from Gannett, faculty from Cornell so that [the house] really feels integrated into the campus as a whole.”
To stimulate student awareness of the house, members are planning to host events through the co-op community and meet with college advisors from all eight colleges on campus, Ransohoff said.
Ransohoff called the house “a realization of a dream,” saying she hopes the space will gain more support from the administration and develop a stronger presence in the Cornell community.