Safe Haven

7 01 2011

Safe Haven Family ShelterUpon pulling into the parking lot, I saw kids of all ages playing outside.  Teens were playing pick-up basketball.  Younger kids were on the playground.  Mothers were playing chasing games with their toddlers.  I was engulfed in an enthusiastic, joyful energy.  These children were laughing and having fun, and I was reminded of my own two sons and the games they enjoy.  Only there was a world of difference between these families and my own—namely that of a home.

This past Monday night, I volunteered at Safe Haven Family Shelter, helping to provide dinner for the approximate two dozen residents who temporarily call this place home.  Their mission is to provide shelter and transitional services that empowers Middle Tennessee homeless families with children to achieve lasting self-sufficiency.   In Nashville, there are many places for homeless single men and women or even homeless women with children.  But what do you do if you are married with children and are homeless?  How about those homeless single men with children under their care?

Safe Haven Family Shelter is the only shelter in the Nashville area that serves the entire family unit.  They can accommodate 11 families at a time through a main shelter campus and 6 transitional homes, and the average length of stay is 65-85 days. 

Families are screened very carefully, yet there continually remains a wait list for a room.  Families must:

  • be a family unit, consisting of one or two parents and at least one minor child.
  • be drug and alcohol-free.
  • be in an emergency situation.
  • have never resided at Safe Haven before.
  • be willing to accept certain responsibilities at the shelter and abide by program rules. 

For example, residents must gain employment or be actively seeking employment, and once employed, they must save 75% of their income which goes into a savings account—a financial safety net once the family transitions back into mainstream housing.  Safe Haven also provides counseling and tutoring as well as parenting, job readiness, and budgeting classes.  Each family has a room of their own; however, they all share a dormitory-style bathroom.  All goods and services are provided free to residents.

 My experience on Monday was once again transformational.  I guess I was expecting a dismal, dark, and depressing place.  Instead, a brightly lit two-story Christmas tree welcomed me when I entered the building.  Children’s art decorated one wall in the dining area.  A half-wall filled with kids’ books enclosed a fun play area for babies and toddlers.  A TV was showing cartoons in the main, very open living area.  Two tweens were working on computers against another wall.  If someone hadn’t told me this was a homeless shelter, the thought wouldn’t have entered my mind.

Safe Haven Family Shelter

Safe Haven Family Shelter living area

Safe Haven Family Shelter

Safe Haven Family Shelter living area, private family bedrooms are along the back wall


Safe Haven Family Shelter

Safe Haven Family Shelter kitchen


Safe Haven Family Shelter

Safe Haven Family Shelter kitchen

Safe Haven Family Shelter

Safe Haven Family Shelter serving area

Safe Haven Family Shelter

Safe Haven Family Shelter library and children's play area

Safe Haven Family Shelter

Safe Haven Family Shelter playground

Once the kids heard we were serving pizza, pandemonium ensued.  Apparently most groups who prepare meals bring chicken casseroles and green beans—lots of green beans so I was told.  A healthy home-cooked meal is important, but a dinner of take-out pizza once every couple months—that’s a treat!  I was shamed when I thought of how often my family and our friends resort to take out, delivery or fast food just because it’s easy and convenient.  I think nothing of the cost of a pizza from Papa Murphy’s.  McDonalds just so the kids can get a junk toy?  No worries.  At least, it’s not a worry for us.  The residents of Safe Haven probably don’t worry about Happy Meals either.  I’m sure Happy Meals aren’t even on their mental radar when their thoughts are consumed with finding a job and a permanent home for their families.

Safe Haven Family Shelter

Safe Haven Family Shelter wish list

I talked to the Hands on Nashville project coordinator as well as the Safe Haven volunteer coordinator.  Besides providing meals, Safe Haven is continually looking for volunteers to help:

  • answer phones.
  • stay overnight—Safe Haven provides a guest room—or on the weekends.
  • lead and assist with art, drama, music, and athletic programs for the families.
  • tutor and mentor the children of the residents.

 Safe Haven also continually seeks donations in the forms of:

  • school uniforms.
  • men’s and women’s dress/business attire.
  • family-size hygiene products—shampoo, soap, deodorant, toothpaste, lotions, etc.
  • cotton sheet sets, comforters, pillows, bath towels, etc.
  • baby products—diapers, wipes, etc.
  • household cleaners, laundry and paper products.
  • unopened and sealed OTC medications—Tylenol, allergy and cold medicines—for adults and children.

Moving into a shelter can be a traumatic experience for anyone, but is often especially difficult for children.  Safe Haven likes to provide Comfort Kits to help make the transition a little easier by giving each child a special gift they can call their own—a luxury for a child who often has nothing but the clothes on his or her back.  The kits are simple to put together and can make for a great group activity.

  • Baby Comfort Kits can include:  a new bottle, formula, pacifier, rattle or other toy.
  • Toddler Comfort Kits can include:  a blanket, sippy cup, socks, and a small toy
  • School Age Comfort Kits can include:  a backpack filled with art/school supplies, journal, socks, football or hair brush/hair accessories.

If you would like to consider a major donation, there are ways you can adopt a family or become a guardian angel.  For more information on donating, visit Safe Haven Donation. 

Isaiah 32:18 states: My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.”  This is the ultimate goal of Safe Haven.  They provide a safe, secure, temporary home while helping families find their own permanent home—a refuge, a place of undisturbed rest.

I look forward to serving at Safe Haven again.  Providing a meal is so simple, yet it means so much.  I am once again reminded of how exceedingly blessed my family is.




One response

23 01 2011

More such unselfish contributors and the community would surely become a more productive environment for all of us.

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