The Haven Provides A Much-Needed Service – Brevard, NC
The Haven was opened in 2011 in Brevard and has been “home” to 510 people since then.
What if you suddenly lost everything due to circumstances beyond your control?
Suppose your car breaks down and you are unable to get to work; you lose your job, and are unable to pay your rent; your spouse dies, you are emotionally unwell, and cannot work to pay bills; your marriage fails or you are in a violent domestic situation and must leave your home seeking safety; or you experience debilitating physical or mental health issues.
These are among the situations that cause homelessness, and the staff at The Haven in Brevard regularly encounters these very situations involving people who desperately need a place to stay because they have nowhere else to go.
According to Forbes Magazine, 63 percent of Americans do not have enough savings to cover a $500 unexpected housing expense, a problem potentially faced by many residents of Transylvania County.
Even though the average property value in the county is $192,000, the poverty rate is 16.6 percent, with females aged 55-64 ranking in the top of that percentage.
This is a largely invisible problem because the homeless are often staying with relatives, living in cars or camping in the forest.
Until 2011, there was no homeless shelter in Transylvania.
The nearest were in Asheville and Hendersonville. With the opening of The Haven that year, and Family House in 2014, critically needed services began to be offered to the county’s homeless population.
The Haven and Haven Family House are shelters that temporarily house homeless men, women and children, providing a respite for those who have fallen into homelessness or have been chronically homeless for a long time.
These shelters are safe, secure residences where people can be helped to get back onto their feet and are treated with dignity and genuine caring by staff and volunteers.
Since 2011, The Haven has been home to 510 people (47 in 2017 alone), with an average stay of 46 days.
The facility houses 18 residents, both male and female, and provides a computer, Wi-Fi, laundry, kitchenette, mail and message services, as well as two full baths and one half bath.
The Haven Family House has served 154 people since 2014. In 2017, 20 families consisting of 33 people were sheltered for an average stay of 113 days.
The Haven Family House has a capacity of 16, with four rooms, each with an adjoining half bath. The shelter offers cable TV, laundry facilities, a full kitchen, two full baths and two half baths.
There are kennels adjacent to The Haven Family House for use by residents of both shelters for their pets.
A typical day begins with lights on at 6:30 a.m. Residents must leave by 8:30 and can return at 4 p.m.
Curfew is 7 p.m., with lights out at 10 on weekdays and 11 on weekends.
All residents are expected to share in the chores needed to maintain the shelters.
Residents are required to fill out a weekly Goal Tracking Sheet, with at least four goals to be met while they are out during each day.
Goals can include applying for jobs and interviews, working, training, volunteering, church, attending support meetings, doctor appointments and attending Meridian classes (a recovery education center offered at no cost to the residents).
Each resident has a case management plan, with accountable goals to meet.
There is a zero-tolerance policy requiring residents to be clean and sober, with no history of violent crime, and each must undergo a substantial background check.
Beds are always made available for veterans.
Through agencies such as Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry and Veterans Services, The Haven works with vets to make sure that they are receiving their full benefits.
In addition, The Haven partnered this year with the Human Relations Council, Bread of Life, Sharing House, Keystone Camp, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Brevard Community Church and the community at large to organize a Winter Emergency Shelter called Code Purple.
When temperatures dropped below freezing, additional warm space was added, along with meals, sleeping bags and essential support including a shelter assistant.
There is no stereotypical profile of a resident.
Many are employed but, without a living wage, do not earn enough to pay for average rental units, which range from $750 to $1,500.
They may have a Section 8 Voucher offering rental housing assistance, but there are few affordable apartments available in the county, so the waiting list is very long.
An Auto Technician
Tim is a 58-year-old male, a high school graduate and an auto technician from South Carolina.
Because of stress-related issues, he lost his job last year.
He then got behind in rent and lost his home. He took another job, but stress again became a problem, so he quit, sold most of his belongings and moved to Brevard last December, in part because of his interest in outdoor activities.
After a week camping in the forest, he saw a flyer in the library describing Code Purple.
There he met two Haven residents who convinced him to apply to The Haven, where he has since been a resident since and is volunteering with Sharing House where he recently accepted a job.
He is very interested in Yoga and has a goal of becoming an instructor.
Tim loves Brevard’s community feel and the kindness he has felt-he is very happy with the life changes he has experienced here.
He says that people helping him, and him helping back, has made his life better than it has ever been.
Long Time Resident
Lisa is a middle-aged female and a long time Brevard resident.
For 14 years she had a good job and was renting a home in a nice neighborhood.
She attended college, majoring in psychology, before getting married and having children.
After a divorce, she was involved in an accident that crushed her spinal cord, requiring her to go on disability, which provides only a third of the income she previously made. Even though she had some savings and was very frugal, following the five months it took to get her first disability check, she found herself broke and staying with friends.
She came to The Haven, staying for 10 months until she got a small apartment.
She discovered when moving that most of her belongings, which had been in storage, had been stolen.
However, Lisa is resilient and a survivor.
She worked at Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS) for a couple of months, at Land of Sky and the Transylvania Animal Shelter. Her big break came when she found her dream job at Silvermont. She said that all her life experiences have finally led her to where she was meant to be, that she now has more meaning to her life and a job that brings her joy and a sense of purpose.
She is on the waiting list for a larger apartment and volunteers in her spare time at The Haven and the Animal Shelter. She feels that the major problem for many people in this area is the lack of a living wage and a scarcity of affordable housing.
Eric is a 42-year-old male with a degree in environmental science from Western North Carolina. He had a high stress job, working long hours as a lab tech with the state. The death of his 5-year-old son sent his life spiraling out of control.
He could not deal with his loss and his life, so he resigned from his job, becoming deeply depressed and isolated.
Eric eventually sought help in a treatment program.
After completing that program, he found himself homeless.
Two days before Christmas, he came to The Haven, and says that a defining point in his life was discovering a bed covered with gifts and a card personally addressed to him.
He was overwhelmed by this kindness and knew that he was in the right place -he has kept that card to this day. He began working at TVS in February 2016 and found housing in March of that year.
He began volunteering at The Haven and was offered and accepted a job as Shelter Manager.
He knows that this is where he was supposed to be. Eric was the first resident of the Haven to get a Habitat for Humanity house and has been invited to share his story at the North Carolina Conference on Homelessness in Raleigh this month.
He is a member of the Civitan Club and is involved in the Special Olympics program.
Eric would like everyone to know that life can take different turns, and even a college degree is no guarantee that one will not experience homelessness and its related problems.
Like You and Me
The reality check here is that these people are just like you and me.
They are not all “addicts” or “alcoholics.” They simply had a significant event happen in their lives that caused them to become homeless.
It could, literally, happen to anyone. Volunteering at the shelter is not dangerous.
“It is very rewarding, especially after meeting some of the people,” said one volunteer.
“It is not at all what I expected,” said another.
Volunteers are always needed to provide support, comfort and acceptance to those who are too often forgotten.
There are many ways to help with the mission of The Haven and the Family House, the most obvious being financial.
Personal donations provide 51 percent of The Haven’s budget.
It is very expensive to operate two shelters. Utilities, insurance, loan servicing, supplies and providing programs are all demanding.
It is estimated that the average national cost per homeless person is $2,100 a month.
You Can Help
Donations are greatly needed to continue to provide these services and to help residents become independent and successful.
Tax deductible contributions may be sent to The Haven of Transylvania County, P.O. Box 25, Brevard, NC 28712. You can become a monthly contributor for as little as $5 or $10 a month.
If you remember The Haven when planning your estate, and with the help of your estate planner, you can reduce, or even eliminate, the estate tax your beneficiaries will owe.
If interested in volunteer opportunities, call (828) 877-2040. You may also visit the shelter at 240 S. Caldwell St. or 126 Oakdale St. on the first Wednesday of the month from 9 to 10 a.m. or on the third Wednesday from 5 to 6 p.m. for coffee and conversations.
For more information, visit the website http://www.HavenofTC.org.
A Thoughtful Poem
Have you ever thought, just a wee little bit, how it might seem to be a misfit, and how you would feel if you had to sit on the other side of the desk?
The beds in The Haven.
Have you ever looked at the man who seemed a bum, as he sat before you, nervous, dumb and thought of the courage it took him to come to the other side of the desk?
Have you thought of the dreams that went astray, of the hard real facts of his every day, of the things in his life that make him stay on the other side of the desk?
Did you make him feel that he was full of greed, make him ashamed of his race or creed, or did you reach out to him in his need to the other side of the desk.
“May God give us wisdom, and lots of it, much compassion, and plenty of grit, so that we may be kinder to those who sit on the other side of the desk.” -Author unknown
(Jill Beach is a Haven board member.)