Business Owners and Homeless React To Shelter Changes

By: Jaclyn Piermarini Email
By: Jaclyn Piermarini Email

July 8, 2014

A major donor for the downtown homeless shelter "The Haven" has stepped aside. Now, we learned more about why it happened, and the impact of that decision.

Blockbuster director Tom Shadyac dreamed up the Haven when he was in town in 2006 to film “Evan Almighty”.

And for years, he has been giving money to keep the shelter running. Now, we are learning more about why he is pulling that funding. The decision to "step aside" from funding the haven wasn't a really a decision, it was in the plan all along.

“When The Haven began, I agreed to support the Haven financially until the organization could get on its feet and raise self-sustaining funds. That goal appears to have been accomplished; my understanding now is that the Haven is in the hoped-for position to self-sustain."

So what do the changes mean for the Haven, our area's homeless population, and downtown businesses?”

The Haven says they knew this funding move from Shadyac was coming, so they were ready when the time came to make the changes necessary.

One of their first moves was to stay open only in the mornings through the month of July and potentially moving forward have a by-appointment afternoon schedule.

Shelter director Stephen Hitchcock says has seen a decrease in traffic at the Haven in the afternoons.

"We have experienced far fewer numbers in the afternoon. Part of that is because people have gotten housed."

One Haven client says he wishes they would be open later in the day.

But if they are closed, Randy Finkbiner says he will head over to the library or Lee Park to stay cool this summer.

"I wish they would open it up until four o'clock. At least you have air conditioning in there, you know what I’m saying? Where I spend my time at is the library when it’s open because its air conditioned."

Downtown business owner Joan Fenton says she doesn't think it will have a huge impact on downtown businesses.

"I think for downtown businesses it won’t have a huge impact because most people will end up in the library or the park, but I think it’s unfortunate for the haven, it’s unfortunate for the people it serves and it’s unfortunate for the community."

Part of these changes are happening at a time when the shift in focus and funding for homeless has gone more to rapid re-housing and then outreach.

Fenton says while she has seen the homeless situation improve, she is hoping any outreach efforts will extend to the library and the park:

Hitchcock says they will address the needs of their clients by extending hours in extreme heat or cold.

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