Most recently updated: December 2020
A family with resources facing a crisis has a vastly different experience than a family with limited economic means.
TheiNeli Vazquez-Rowland, co-founder and president of A Safe Haven, discovered that first hand. “My husband returned from military service, and as is common for many veterans, he had a bout of alcoholism, and fortunately we had the resources to get treatment,” she says.
They decided to take their experience in the business world and put together a program that combines all the necessary services in one place, and treats each individual’s full range of problems. “We figure out for them how to pay for what they need, and at the end of the day it reduces the burden on all of us,” says Vazquez-Rowland.
Empowering Individuals through Treatment
Their unique approach includes supportive housing, addiction treatment, education, affordable housing and job training and placement.
This model empowers individuals to transform their own lives and contribute to society. It also keeps families together while the primary parent receives treatment and housing. The success of A Safe Haven has made it a model for individualized treatment plans that treat clients with dignity and respect.
One of their success stories is a veteran who had served in Iraq, and had two pre-teen daughters. When she came home, she got caught up in drug addiction and was living on the streets with her two daughters in tow, going from shelter to shelter. Vazquez-Rowland says, “When she came to us, we got her in treatment and in an apartment with another mom who also had children, so the two of them were helping each other.
After she got treatment for her drug problem, she learned how to be a parent, says Vazquez-Rowland. “Once her life got stable, her children’s lives became stable, and they began to flourish.” Vazquez-Rowland reports that the woman’s oldest daughter has just started college.
“The human toll on individuals, communities and families is unsustainable.” She notes that if we took a fraction of the money we spend on police and prisons, and put it toward social service programs like A Safe Haven, we could break the cycle of poverty and despair.
By the Numbers (updated 2020):
Eight years later, in 2020, A Safe Haven is still a major aide for the homeless in Chicago. In their most recent By The Numbers count, from July 2018 to June 2019, the foundation helped served nearly 1,000 more people (unduplicated) than in 2012.
- 4,945 people served
- 55 days: average length of stay in program
- 1,015 job placements (including transition, temporary and permanent)
- 528 children served
- 471,331 healthy meals served
In addition, the 2020 Chicago Innovation Awards awarded A Safe Haven the COVID-19 Response Award for the foundation’s timely and effective response to the pandemic.
This article is part of our 2012 Philanthropy Awards. See more of our winners here: