Supporters Help Fight Homelessness in Chicago!

A Safe Haven Foundation’s Most ARDENT Supporters Including OVER 100 Active Military from the US Army, Marines & West Pointers Landed, Braved the Rain and LED from The Front Lines of The 5k RUN/WALK To Help Fight The Battle To End Homelessness in Chicago!

CHICAGO, IL—July 16, 2018—On July 14, 2018, A Safe Haven Foundation held its 8th Annual 5k Run to End Homelessness at Montrose Harbor. Early morning rain did not stop some of Chicago’s most ardent supporters of A Safe Haven and the cause from being a huge success. The entire program can only be described as incredibly substantial and inspiring and it left everyone who attended energized, filled with hope and excited to get more involved and come back again next year!

Although event organizers and producers estimated that they lost at least 2/3 of their original estimates, the event was nonetheless well attended with over 1,000 supporters who braved the rain and thunderstorm predictions to run, walk, volunteer and support family and friends. The attendees included noteworthy supporters from around the country including a team of faculty and students who traveled from Boston and New York, from Harvard University, led by faculty member Dr. Dolly Amaya and several prominent and top elected officials from Federal, State, County and City government who came out early and were on hand to welcome the crowd, make remarks and to participate in the race to support the cause.

ABC 7 Chicago Celebrity Sportscaster Dionne Miller served as the morning’s event emcee for the second year in a row. A beautiful rendition of the National Anthem was sung by Benji Weiss, the son of A Safe Haven Advisory Board Member and music and media producer Lynn Orman. Welcoming remarks were made by host City Council member of the 46th ward James Cappleman who also ran it as his first 5k run on behalf of A Safe Haven and the cause. Aldermen Joe Moore, Chairman of the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate; and Gilbert Villegas, Alderman and Chairman of both the Latino and Veteran Caucuses, discussed their experiences supporting homeless people and working with A Safe Haven to help move the cause forward. In his opening remarks, Alderman Cappleman exclaimed, “Ending homelessness is not just something we want to do, it is something we need to do.”

Also joining them was James Cunningham, Deputy Regional Director of Housing and Urban Development, to announce the designation of A Safe Haven Foundation as the exclusive Envision Center for the State of Illinois. Envision Center is a ‘one stop shop’ for all federal Agencies to help provide resources and transition people in public housing and in need to holistic and comprehensive services to lead them back to jobs and permanent housing. Director Cunningham shared that he’s been in Chicago for four years and A Safe Haven has impressed him as the best program in the Country.

In honor of his Reigning championship role as largest and top fundraising team, and commitment to the cause, Cook County Commissioner Dan Patlak, on the Board of Review, served as race marshal, leading the count down and blowing the horn to set off the runners and walkers. It was an awe-inspiring vision to see almost 100 military Army and Marines and West Point grads leading the race from the front lines of the 5k this year, as they ran in formation and in cadence with a flag bearer representing their respective branch of service, garnering cheers and support from runners and supporters along the way.

Immediately following the race, remarks were made by State Elected Officials Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti, State Representative LaShawn Ford and President of Small Business Advocacy Council, Elliot Richardson. Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti also read a letter by Governor Rauner in recognition of A Safe Haven Co-Founders, Neli Vazquez Rowland and Brian Rowland for their leadership as public servants, and the work of A Safe Haven Foundation.

Illinois State Representative LaShawn K. Ford then shared remarks about his support of A Safe Haven and the recent overwhelming passage of House Bill 5868, for which he served as the primary sponsor. This Bill allows for an integrated and comprehensive delivery of care along with approval of healthcare to behavioral healthcare, and allows public and private healthcare insurance coverage to cover the cost of the most integrated and comprehensive program in the Country. It is highly anticipated to reduce the rate and the costs associated with recidivism and to improve outcomes, short and long-term. Upon completing his remarks, Representative Ford was surprised to be recognized at the event by Neli Vazquez Rowland, President of A Safe Haven for his vision, leadership and support on behalf of landmark legislation Bill HB5868 authored by Vazquez Rowland. The legislation recently passed in May with overwhelming bi-partisan support and unanimous support in the Senate. The Bill is currently pending Governor Rauner’s signature.

Also making remarks in support of HB5868 and why the business community signed on as a main proponent and spoke on behalf of the Bill was Small Business Advocacy Council, President Elliot Richardson. Mr. Richardson, highlighted the importance of this Bill to help employers improve the health of their employees and to reduce the healthcare and workman’s compensation costs and risk, which studies show is highly correlated with the high rates of healthcare costs. He also received recognition by Vazquez Rowland for his role in helping to move the landmark legislation through the House and the Senate to the finish line.

Kayla Garcia, 14 made her public debut and inspired the crowd by covering the song “Titanium.” Don Burnside, Chicago top music producer also debuted a new song written by Chicago gospel artist Jessica Love along with other major names in music serving as collaborators via sound track called “Invisible People”. The song was written to honor and to support A Safe Haven Foundation. Gus Redmond, Chicago top Music producer is also involved in the special upcoming launch of the new beautifully written song to raise awareness and support for the cause.

Closing the event was A Safe Haven 2012 Alumni, Angalia Bianca, who shared her testimonial; upon being released from prison after 36 years of experiencing a vicious cycle of homelessness, drug overdoses, arrests and incarceration, she was released to A Safe Haven, where she resided for over 8 months. Having been in and out of other treatment programs and homeless shelters around the country. She credits A Safe Haven as having been uniquely able to help her ‘holistically’ overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges and getting back her on track to work, reunite with her family and children and living independently, clean and sober for over 8 years since leaving A Safe Haven. Bianca has written a book called “In Deep” about her experience with addiction, homelessness, incarceration and the role that A Safe Haven played in her journey, which will be released in the fall.

Bianca, who is rarely at a loss for words, was caught by surprise and was left speechless and moved to tears, when upon completing her remarks, Vazquez Rowland surprised her by presenting her with the 2018 Voice of an Angel Award. A Safe Haven started the 2017 Voice of An Angel Award tradition, last year, in honor of those who use their powerful voices to support the cause of helping the homeless. 2017 award recipient was long-time supporter of A Safe Haven, and America’s Got Talent Golden Buzzer Winner and Top finisher, and now internationally acclaimed opera singer, Laura Bretan. Bianca concluded her remarks by sharing, “The only way that I am here right now is because of A Safe Haven.”

Winning top Male Runner and Female Runner were Bobby Hartnett (20:29), and Madison Lemmons (20:45)! The top overall 50 runners received two 3-day passes to Riotfest valued at over $400. Winning Largest Team and Top Fundraising Team is perennial champion Cook County Commissioner, Dan Patlak, and top individual donor was Attorney and A Safe Haven Board Member, Michael V. Favia.


“Thank you everyone for showing up to support A Safe Haven’s mission. We address and solve homelessness every day, and men, women and children in crisis need people to show up for them each day. We couldn’t do it without the support of our partners and fellow advocates. It truly takes a team effort.” – Neli Vazquez Rowland, President, A Safe Haven Foundation