May 15 at 9:00am

Haven House finishes successful shelter season thanks to dedicated volunteers, supporters, and staff

Seventy-eight homeless individuals found shelter for at least one night this winter at Haven House, the emergency winter shelter at the Escondido office of Interfaith Community Services.

The number of people sheltered between Dec. 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014, dropped from 143 during the same period the previous year, mainly because those who used the shelter stayed for more nights, according to a report compiled by Haven House managers Jan and Doug Ferris. That allowed the opportunity for those who came in to work more on making long-term changes in their lives, said Doug Ferris.

“We look at this facility as trying to make a difference in someone’s life,” said Ferris. “We’re not going to change a person in four months, but we’re definitely going to make a better stab at it. There’s not a lot we can do in 30 days.”

Of the 78 total clients, 23 stayed at the shelter at least 101 of the 121 total nights. Another 17 spent 51 or more nights at Haven House, which is one of six shelters in the Alliance for Regional Solutions Winter Shelter System, which provides up to 244 beds each night in North San Diego County.

“I think it helps a lot for people to stay longer,” said Ferris. “For us, it’s nice if the same 40 come in every night. We can give them concentrated therapy and social work, and we don’t have to wash their linens so much.”

Other findings in the report show 812 total turnaways for the 121 nights because the shelter was full. Some people may have been turned away more than once. Another 572 times, a client received food only. In all, 277 individual clients were either turned away or received just food when they arrived at Haven House.

Part of the reason for the large number of turnaways was the loss of the Escondido Community Sobering Services facility available in previous years to handle overflow at the shelter. That center closed in July 2013.

Faith centers, family groups and businesses prepared 7,260 meals for the shelter residents.

“We had great participation from church groups and other folks who provided meals,” said Ferris. “Our volunteer corps this year really stepped up.”

The volunteers were supplemented by interns from local colleges, coordinated by Traci Chester from Interfaith’s housing department. In all, volunteers provided 1,360 hours of service, in addition to meal preparation.

Those volunteers were recognized at a March 12 appreciation event at the shelter. There, Dennis DeVuyst of Emmanuel Faith Church in Escondido, who worked 136 hours at the shelter this winter, summed up the feelings of many of his fellow volunteers.

“I have a passion for helping people,” he said.