Safe Haven is excited to be part of Nashville’s new goal to house 50 families and 50 individuals through a new Coordinated Entry System (CES). This new campaign is part of the 100,000 Homes Campaign and will run from February 10 to May 28, 2014. During this time, Safe Haven has been making changes to implement this new system. The 100,000 Homes staff told us we were the first family shelter across the country to participate in this ambitious process, and we are proud to blaze the trail to work collaboratively across the city to permanently house more families.
We are now using the same assessment tool across the city, called the VI-SPDAT. It is a tool that has exhaustive research to back it up to assess and prioritize individuals and families. Through the nearly 200 phone calls we receive each month, we are picking the highest barrier families to complete the SPDAT assessment. With the help of some wonderful and effective Vanderbilt students, we completed the first assessment with 6 families a couple weeks ago. From those, we chose three families who scored the highest, meaning the highest vulnerability, to come into our shelter program and work towards housing quickly while continuing to work with the other three families on alternative housing goals.
In case you missed the recent press on the 100,000 Homes Campaign in Nashville, check out this Nashville Scene article and this segment of 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper. Safe Haven is proud to collaborate with How’s Nashville and be the first family shelter working on this national campaign.
While the numbers and statistics inform the work we do, and provide a measurement for success, it is the personal interactions and observations that allow us to really see the difference we make. At this week’s shelter meeting, where our resident families come together to check in, talk, and problem-solve, I introduced these new families. I was a little surprised at what happened. I asked everyone to do just a quick check in, talk about something good that happened this week or just say hi. One by one, every family started talking about how blessed they are. Really? Blessed to be homeless? The families started sharing their stories with each other. One family has been homeless for three years; a couple or others had been sleeping in their cars with their kids; some have been separated from their children. Still others have lost loved ones in the last few weeks. I was surprised at how open and supportive everyone was. Tears were flowing. They all feel so blessed to be at Safe Haven, have a safe place to sleep at night without worry and start rebuilding their families. It was such an honor to be part of that meeting and reminded me of the importance of what we do. You never know what is going on in someone’s life when you cross paths.
This week we also had three families approved for their own housing through the 100,000 Homes Campaign. We are so excited for those families and will continue to work with them as they transition to independence. Thank you to all our new community partners, dedicated staff and gracious volunteers for making all of this happen!
Jennifer Reason, LBSW is the Program Director at Safe Haven Family Shelter.