During 2005 there was serious discussion about the need for a winter shelter for York County homeless men. Everyone agreed that something was needed, but nothing had been done to provide shelter. Late that year a group of seven agencies in Rock Hill and York County decided that it was time to seriously address the problem of homelessness. The agencies involved were:
American Red Cross, Interfaith Hospitality, Pilgrims’ Inn, Salvation Army, United Way, York Baptist Association, and TLC Ministries.
This group devised a plan and began a search for a shelter facility. A temporary location, on Archive Street, was donated by a local contractor and the plan was put into action. The community responded with moral and financial help and on January 17th, 2006 Winterhaven was opened. The initial goal was to get as many men off the streets as possible during the winter months.
Volunteers were found to check the men in each evening and provide nightly meals. As temperatures dropped and word spread of the new facility, the number of individuals entering the shelter increased greatly. Between January and March 2006 the Winterhaven provided over 50 men a warm and safe place to sleep and a meal to eat. With only 14 beds roughly 150 to 200 requests for shelter per month were denied due to space limitations.
In spite of many obstacles, Winterhaven took on the task of providing housing, social, spiritual and employment counseling to residents who expressed a desire to improve the conditions of their lives. In the spring of that year, the founding coalition felt their original plan for a winter shelter for men had been a success. Rather than close until next winter, TLC Ministries and a small group of volunteers determined there was an ongoing need to keep the shelter open year round as a half way house for men who were changing their lives and needed a safe environment to foster this change.
Late in 2006 the Board determined that the shelter’s growth needs would be best met if it became a tax exempt agency. The State of South Carolina approved the 501(c)3 application and the name of the agency was changed to the Haven Men’s Shelter. To operate the shelter, a day manager and a weekend manager were hired, with the Board managing the operational decisions.
Currently The Haven will accept men for emergency shelter if there is room and they are willing to abide by the rules. Good results have been experienced with men at the shelter. One third of the residents find employment and 25% have entered a substance abuse or vocational rehabilitation program.
In 2008, a part-time Executive Director was brought on board to take on the financial, management and public relations responsibilities. The role of the board then reorganized to strengthen fundraising, long range planning and management support.
Many exciting changes occurred in 2009, including being given an office space at Bannon Hall by Saint Mary Catholic Church and the hiring of a full-time Executive Director with a Master of Social Work Degree. These two organization successes have allowed us to expand the services we are able to offer our residents as well as giving us a more visible place in the community in which we serve.
Throughout 2010 and 2011, we have developed numerous partnerships and tapped into resources that have increased our success in assisting our residents. We predict in the years to come we will continue to grow as a service organization and be able to continue making a sizable and positive effect onconquering homelessness in our area.