Safe Haven is Committed to Children’s Well-Being and Education Success

This is a joint blog by CEO Joyce Lavery and Education Specialist Judy Lewis. Joyce’s introduction is in the gray box, followed by Judy’s blog.

“The answer to this poverty is not more shelters. The answer is not more public assistance. The answer is guaranteeing an education so people can earn a living wage, so that people can go on and become independent. And that hasn’t been the focus. It’s always been taking care of the poor, not educating.” (The Poor Among Us, Ralph da Costa & Ethan Sribnick)

Introduction by Safe Haven CEO Joyce Lavery:

As Safe Haven expands our capacity with our beautiful new building, we know that capacity-building is about far more than creating more room and serving more families. Building capacity is also about doing what we do even better and creating more change and opportunity for the families we serve and for our community. With our new capacity to serve 10 families in shelter at a time, we will have over 30 children of all ages in residence. In addition, with our Transitional Housing and Rapid Re-Housing (permanent housing) programs, that number can easily double.  Research demonstrates that even short episodes of homelessness can cause trauma and academic, social and developmental delays for children.

birght spaceTo meet these critical needs, in addition to the compassionate and trauma-informed care we provide daily to all, we have built two age-appropriate Bright Spaces for children and youth and a space for teens as well. These spaces come with trained volunteers and staff and a model of parent engagement. Our therapist and our Sr. Case Manager are certified in Play Therapy and Parent/Child Interaction Therapy – both evidence-based practices to help children (and parents) work through the emotional/psychological stresses they are experiencing.  However, we knew we needed to do more, and we are proud of our commitment to children’s well-being and education success – the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. By also hiring an Education Specialist, we will be able to provide direct work in the schools and “case manage” children experiencing homelessness so that they not only don’t fall behind, but they have an opportunity to thrive.

Please welcome Judy Lewis, Safe Haven’s first Education Specialist. Judy is uniquely qualified to take on this role with degrees from Vanderbilt University in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Community  Development. She has been working with us as a weekend staff generalist and her love of the children we serve and her commitment to their well-being has been evident. Safe Haven is so fortunate and blessed to have so many talented, hard-working, and dedicated staff, and Judy is a welcome addition!  ~ Joyce Lavery, CEO/Executive Director

Judy Lewis:

At Safe Haven Family Shelter, we believe in not only effective interventions for our children and parents once they enter our program—but also prevention strategies so that the children do not cycle into the same path as their parents or guardians. Major trauma, such as experiencing extreme poverty or homelessness in one’s childhood, can actually alter the brain and cause lifelong problems. Education is at the center of the resolution. Not only should we ensure that our children have proper access to education, but at Safe Haven we are also committed to educating our community about the adverse side effects of homelessness and how to engage with students who come from troubled backgrounds.

Several of our Safe Haven, just home from their first day of school, show us their new backpacks donated by Bright Horizons Foundation for Children.

Several of our Safe Haven, just home from their first day of school, show us their new backpacks donated by Bright Horizons Foundation for Children.

This week marks the first days of the Metro Nashville Public School academic year, but also the beginning of a new future for children who come through Safe Haven Family Shelter. During the 2013-14 school-year, Safe Haven children will have access to top-quality tutoring from Vanderbilt students in the Education department several days a week. They will also be aligned with after-school programs that match their interests and needs—whether that be sports, music or college-readiness (just to name a few). I believe opportunities for success shouldn’t only be offered to those with a history of being successful, but also to those who come from a place of hardship. As best-selling author Dr. Willie Jolley often says, “A set-back is [just] a set-up for a comeback”.

Homeless children are eight times more likely to be asked to repeat a grade, four times more likely to have developmental delays and two times more likely to have learning disabilities, but when provided a toolbox of strategies to support self-sufficiency, those children can lead fulfilling lives and be an example to other children in need.

Judy Lewis is the Education Specialist (K-12) at Safe Haven.

Judy Lewis is the Education Specialist (K-12) at Safe Haven.



  1. Tamesha Derico says:

    Congrats, Judy! Safe Haven is lucky to have you, and I look forward to seeing the impact that your 2013-14 programs will have on the children and families that Safe Haven serves.

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