A Safe Haven Foundation (quick and easy ways to make a difference)

It started as so many great friendships do—in the spectator stands—cheering on their children.
Kathy Wirtz’s and Carol Carroll’s sons played on the same Loyola Academy hockey team. The women cemented a powerful relationship when Carroll supported Wirtz through her divorce and alcoholism rehabilitation.

Now that friendship has launched a $1 million capital campaign to help other women and families through A Safe Haven Foundation. And these two amazing women would like your help.

This is a very different form of fundraising from the annual Maryville Academy galas that Wirtz used to chair—more grassroots, woman-to-amazing-woman, and more personal.

“I wanted to give back in my sobriety,” Wirtz explains.

Wirtz and Carroll chose A Safe Haven Foundation (ASHF) because it stood out as the most effective, sustainable and financially efficient model. It targets families and individuals who are homeless, unemployed and struggling with the disease of addiction, and provides comprehensive treatment, skills development, job placement and follow-up support.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Neli Vazquez-Rowland—another passionate and connected woman, whose family struggled with addictions—founded A Safe Haven Foundation. It started in 1994, and is now recognized as a national leader with 16 sites throughout the Chicago area. They offer beds and comprehensive support for 1,300 people daily. Another 5 facilities will open by summer’s end.

That comprehensive support has made the employment rates of A Safe Haven graduates first in the nation, with 85% job placement and 90% job retention, as measured by the Department of Labor.

Additional numbers demonstrate ASHF’s stunning success:

  • Cost per person for ASHF comprehensive services: $80/day
  • Cost per person for less comprehensive services elsewhere: $100/day-$450/hour
  • Staff members who are former clients: 33%
  • Successful recovery program graduates: 82%
  • Estimated budget allocated to services: 83%
  • Families and individuals served each year: 4,000
  • People served by A Safe Haven since 1994: 36,000
  • Estimated taxes paid by graduates in 2010: $500,000
  • Estimated earnings of graduates in 2010: $3.2 million

A tour of the main facility explains why. The staff members smile. The clients tell uplifting stories, and even ring a bell in the workforce development department every time they “graduate” to permanent employment. Vazquez-Rowland’s optimistic, enthusiastic problem-solving attitude trickles down through the entire organization. She believes that they have developed a model that can end homelessness in a way that no government or private program has accomplished, and for far less cost.

“The vast majority of people care about solving homelessness too,” Vazquez-Rowland’s declares. “Here’s a path that leads to success.”

You can learn more at a complimentary Chicago Yacht Club breakfast hosted by Wirtz, Carroll, Vazquez-Rowland and others on Tuesday, May 17, “Empowering Women and Children to Live in the Solution.”

This video also helps bring A Safe Haven’s work to life:

Wirtz and Carroll ask, “Please help us build our grassroots network. Learn more, tell your friends, host a tea or evening reception, give money.”

Make It Better promises that your time and money will be well spent.

MAY 2011  |  BY SUSAN B. NOYES  |

Make It Better