Kenneth Schonlau, a longtime Santa Monica resident and national contributor to the community social model recovery field, passed away January 22, from acute respiratory arrest. He was 79. Born March 22, 1929 in Chicago, he was the son of Geneva and Ferdinand Schonlau, an Illinois accountant.
While serving in aviation in the U.S. Navy from 1948 to 1952, Ken was stationed in Panama. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1957 with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and joined Hughes Aircraft as an aeronautical engineer, where he was known for his uncanny ability to diagnose structural and mechanical problems in developing aircraft prototypes.
Married in 1969 to Maria Doordan, who passed away in 1987, Ken turned his attention to helping others in the Santa Monica community. He and Maria started Felicity House, the first recovery home for women on the Westside; and he became the founder and executive director of the CLARE Foundation Community Recovery Program for 17 years (1970-87), and was founding president (1972-75) and executive director (1988-1990) of the California Association of Recovery Homes (CAARH).
The CLARE Foundation began with a group of community-minded individuals who distributed food and literature to the homeless and indigent alcoholics gathering on the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice. In 1970, they rented a small storefront and sleeping area on Pico Boulevard, where they began providing education, resources, referrals, and a place to detox.
In 1971, they were joined by Dr. Jokichi Takamine, who provided Public Health services. “It is impossible to calculate how many human lives Ken Schonlau has touched in a positive way,” says Takamine. “The CLARE Foundation stands as a living Memorial that will shine for many years to come,” says L.A. Councilman Bill Rosendahl.
Schonlau was one of the founding board members (1985) of the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing (SCANPH); founder and project director of the Sober Living Network (1995 to present), member of the Association of Halfway House Addiction Programs (AHHAP), founder of the Los Angeles County Sober Living Coalition (1998); recent founder of the Venice Recovery Center (2007), and a commissioner on the Los Angeles County Commission on Alcoholism (1996-2008). He also served on the City of Santa Monica Housing Commission (1984-1989).
The Sober Living Network provides information, training, technical assistance, and advocacy for over 500 sober living homes in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, and San Diego Counties. Schonlau is survived by his niece, Jennifer Hennen of Elmhurst, Illinois and his nephew, Frederick Meng of Capitola, California.
The family has requested that donations, rather than flowers, be sent to The Sober Living Network, P.O. Box 5235, Santa Monica, CA 90409. A memorial service will be held in late February. For more information visit: soberhousing.net.