HAVEN making progress

Services resume on limited basis
Dec. 08, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

After skirting financial ruin, HAVEN in Lee County has gradually reintroduced its support services for victims of domestic violence. Today, the group is putting the final piece back into play by reopening its shelter for abused women and children.

"We are determined to meet our mission and our commitment to this community," said Susan King, interim executive director of HAVEN. However, she added, "We're taking this a step at a time."

The first step in reopening the shelter, she said, is offering some of the 29 beds normally available for use. Because funding is still stretched somewhat thin, and the group only has volunteers and no full-time employees, King said the shelter won't be able to operate at full capacity immediately.

In the four months since HAVEN (Helping Abuse and Violence End Now) laid off its staff, closed its shelter and also stopped most of its other services, King said, a number of people came to seek help. They had been directing people to shelters in nearby counties, King said — but she's hoping that after this weekend, everyone who comes to HAVEN's Bracken Street location can receive help on the spot.

"We will make sure everyone who needs shelter will get shelter, and if we can't accommodate anyone, we will set them up somewhere else," King said. "We will not turn anyone away."

According to a statement from the group, HAVEN's next goal is to secure enough grant funding to hire full-time staff members and thus be in a better position to operate the 29-bed shelter at full capacity. Carol Carlson, who has led the group's board of directors for the past several years, is stepping aside to let Janice Oelrich Davis become the new board of directors chairman.

Davis will take over at the start of the new year and will be joined by fellow new board members Roger Darr, James Estes, Tony Hancox, Beth Morrill and Nolan Williams.

"HAVEN is making progress on the rebuilding milestones set by the board," Davis said in a press release. "In order to secure some of the necessary grants for long-term shelter operating costs, such as salaries for a permanent staff, HAVEN must offer residential services. Our volunteers will be the key to helping us to secure this funding and fully restore operations.

"Additionally, we recently elected new board members who will provide leadership in non-profit management, major gifts, social services, technology and marketing. These individuals will guide us as we prepare for a more sustainable future at HAVEN."

According to the group's press release, a full-time staff for the shelter and offices are the ultimate goal, but volunteers ought to suffice in the meantime. And anyone who would like to join up as a volunteer is welcome: "HAVEN will hold several resident volunteer training sessions throughout the coming months. Those who would like to register may do so by contacting HAVEN at (919) 774-8923."

That same number is also the 24-hour crisis line, which people can call at any time if in an emergency. HAVEN officials have previously told The Herald the group receives about 90 calls every month for various reasons.