The Memorial Foundation featured Safe Haven and the story of one of our families in their recent annual report. It is a beautiful piece and shares the story of Amy and her family’s experience with Safe Haven. We are posting the text of the feature here with permission from the Memorial Foundation.
“Where we love is home — home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Several years ago, Amy Thomas, a teacher’s aide, was living a parent’s worst nightmare. She couldn’t make ends meet on one income and in the summer of 2012, she found herself homeless and living with Lauren, 10, and Gabriel, 1 in the family car. They had no roof over their heads. No beds to curl up in. No place to be safe. For three months, they struggled to survive — until Amy found safe harbor at Safe Haven Family Shelter in September of 2012.
Safe Haven Family Shelter took in Amy, Lauren and Gabriel, and helped them turn their lives around. Safe Haven (formerly St. Patrick’s Shelter) was established in 1984 to provide comprehensive services exclusively to homeless families. In 2003, it merged with Nashville Family Shelter and is unique because it focuses solely on the shelter, education and success of families. Safe Haven Family Shelter provides free housing to ten families at a time and serves an additional 20-30 families in transitional and re-housing facilities.
“I called so many shelters and all were full or wouldn’t take my children,” says Amy. “I was so relieved and thankful when Safe Haven opened its doors to us. Safe Haven surrounded us with love and provided shelter, support and a sense of community. It became, and still is, the support system I didn’t have.”
Safe Haven Family Shelter’s rooms can accommodate both small and large families. Residents are offered case management services, individual and group counseling, family entertainment, and opportunities for children to attend summer camps. Lauren participated in several summer camps, and next year wants to become a camp counselor.
“Because of the way I was raised, I was never taught about a lot of things like budgeting and nutrition,” said Amy. “I was really naïve and at first I was like a baby learning to walk. I’ll teach my kids the lessons I’ve learned at Safe Haven.”
Amy and her family moved to Safe Haven’s transitional housing in December 2012 where they continued to receive services from Safe Haven but had more independence and
responsibility, such as paying rent, providing their own meals and creating a family routine. The Thomas family excelled and now has found a permanent home.
“The families that come to Safe Haven are hungry for help,” says Hannah Evans, the Thomas’ case manager. “They want to learn how to better themselves and already have good survival and coping skills. We meet their physical and emotional needs while restoring their confidence.”
According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors report released in December 2013, Nashville experienced a 25 percent increase in homeless families last year; officials expect the number to rise. The Memorial Foundation helps address this crucial community need and has provided $590,000 in grants since 1996. In 2013, the Memorial Foundation granted $45,000 in operating support for the shelter, transitional housing and rapid re-housing programs.