After 26 years of helping homeless, Haven House in need of home August 01, 2013 at 02:33PM

For 26 years, Haven House has given a solid roof and a sound night's sleep to people who would have otherwise gone without. Now, the shelter that helped so many is itself in need of a home.  

Since opening in 1987, the shelter has been a partnership between the Dayton Housing Authority, which provided the building and utilities, and We Care Community Services, which handled the day to day operations, provided case management and paid the insurance. 

That partnership is no longer feasible. Walter Ring, president of We Care, said increased demand for four-bedroom units was forcing the housing authority to take back the building. We Care has been given until Dec. 31 to vacate. 

That move could mean a lot of people without roofs over their heads. In 2012 alone, Haven House sheltered 12 people for a total of 213 nights. And Ring said the demand far outpaced what We Care could provide. 

"We get requests constantly," he said. Haven House serves residents in Hamilton, Bledsoe, Roane and Meigs counties, as well as in Rhea County. Ring said the nearest alternative shelters were in Cleveland, Tenn. and Chattanooga, Tenn. — 30 and 40 miles away, respectively. 

We Care now has only five months to locate a new home, raise the necessary funds and make the move — or else the doors will be shut to all those urgent requests. 

Ring said We Care did not have the money to save the program on its own. The organization is in the process of raising funds to launch Safe Haven Light, another transitional housing program — this one aimed at children who are in state custody. 

As it is, Ring said, these kids are often torn away from their community and placed in foster care — or, worse, in jails or detention centers — while they await a permanent home. 

Because of these and other commitments, Ring said, We Care has little room for adjustment in its budget. The only way to save Haven House, he said, would be to have a house donated or to raise enough money to purchase a new one. 

"We Care will explore all viable options," Ring said, "but this represents a big challenge. In all likelihood, the work of the shelter will cease Dec. 31 of this year." 


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