Donor Director No Longer Funding Local Shelter

By: Jaclyn Piermarini Email
By: Jaclyn Piermarini Email

July 7, 2014

Changes are underway for a local homeless shelter. After several years, a big-name investor is pulling out of The Haven.

When UVA grad and blockbuster director Tom Shadyac came to town to film "Evan Almighty" in 2006, he took notice of the number of homeless on the streets.

So he took more than $3 million of his personal fortune and dumped it into an old church off the downtown mall aimed at creating a shelter to help people get back on their feet.

Now, years later, he won’t be putting his money into the Haven anymore. Luckily, Haven Director Stephen Hitchcock says the loss of funds isn't totally out of the blue.

"We knew that he would be withdrawing those funds at some point. We were probably expecting by next year the end of next year, and that came a lot quicker than we expected."

Rather than close, the Haven plans to handle the loss in funding with some changes in how they operate. Hitchcock says one change will be a shift in their hours of operations.

"We've closed for the month of July in the afternoon. Now, going forward, whether we'll remain closed in the afternoon is yet to be seen. I think there is the possibility we would open in the afternoons but with a more directed experience like by appointment or for a particular purpose."

Luckily, while Shadyac was certainly their best-known benefactor, he wasn't their only one. By changing some of their focus, they will be accepting more funding from the state.

"It forced us to expedite some operational changes that we were making, which mostly entail a shift in focus which is more offsite work."

Offsite work means instead of just helping the homeless people that come through at the haven, Hitchcock says they are going to try to work more with people once they have housed them.

"Traditionally people think you engage someone who's homeless in a shelter or in a soup kitchen line or maybe in the street somewhere. But why not begin to bring all of our supportive services and good programs and opportunities to them while they're housed?"

He says some things will stay the same.

"We will continue to be a low barrier shelter for anyone to come in and receive basic services."

So while a loss in funding is rarely a good thing, Hitchcock says they are working to turn this into a push to do something positive.

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