A Haven for Hope in More Ways than One
by
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
July 23, 2009

When then-Mayor Phil Hardberger announced along with former Valero Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board Bill Greehey that they wanted to help the homeless in a way that would be a national model, I thought great. I also thought, "How are they going to keep the place from being a haven for all those in search of a cool place in the summer and a warm place in the winter?" Although I sensed that leaders of the caliber of Hardberger and Greehey had the best of intentions, I was unsure about the "magnet" effect of offering such a "haven".

I have visited the Haven several times but the more I visit it, the more effective I believe it will be. This is not just a "do-gooder" or "feel good" project. It has discipline and a regimen about it that suggests that the uninitiated should take note.

This campus just somewhat northwest of downtown proper will treat all stages of progress they expect to achieve with those that enter its doors. A welfare program it is not. The Haven honors Seven Guiding Principles:

  1. Establish a culture of transformation,
  2. Co-locate and integrate as many services as possible at the Haven,
  3. Master case management,
  4. Reward good decision-making,
  5. Employ consequences for bad decision-making,
  6. Align all the external services with the Campus and
  7. Separate the panhandlers from the truly homeless.

Although Haven for Hope has a heart, it also has a brain. This cannot be a mere welfare program in the worst possible sense. It is a no-nonsense, no playing around operation. Greehey and his right-hand manager, Bob Marbut have been around the country to see who really does this kind of a homeless shelter right. They are not re-inventing the wheel!

The Haven presently has eight Tier One Partners: American GI Forum, CentroMed, Center for Health Care Services, COSA Community Court, SAMMinistries, San Antonio Christian Dental Clinic, San Antonio Food Bank and the Vision Center. The Haven also has over 70 non-profit Partners. It is critical to the Haven's success to have volunteers serve with any of these partners during the construction scheduled to be completed in late Fall of 2009.

It just happens that Bexar County is running a record jail population that threatens to damage our fiscal well-being in the 2009-2010 budget process. There is no question that many homeless are struggling with mental illness or substance abuse. I see the Haven as a part solution to keeping some of the mentally ill or substance abusing inmates out of our jail and on the road to recovery without re-entering our jail. This would not just save Bexar County hard-earned tax money, it would engender a much more productive society.

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