Haven for Hope CEO Explains Nonprofit’s Success

Haven for Hope President and CEO, Kim Jefferies
Haven for Hope President and CEO, Kim Jefferies | Image by Haven for Hope/Facebook

Kim Jefferies, the president and CEO of San Antonio’s Haven for Hope, recently appeared on a podcast and explained how her organization’s campus has become a successful model for treating homelessness.

Jefferies sat down with Philanthropy SA‘s Dan Rebmann to discuss the nonprofit’s initiative to provide various social services on the same single 22-acre campus where it maintains transitional housing for its clients. The group’s model has been credited with reducing unsheltered homelessness in San Antonio’s downtown area by 77%.

As she explained to Rebmann, the core reason for the success of the “one-stop-shop” model is its ability to provide the essential services needed to get a person off the streets. Such services are made available through partnerships with other organizations.

“What it is really about is not putting a bandaid on the problem,” Jefferies said. “It is really wrapping around the individual with whatever services they might need and eliminating barriers to access and entry into those services.”

With help from its partners, Haven for Hope offers medical, dental, vision services, detox, in-patient treatments, substance use and mental health co-occurring treatment, counseling, and other mental health services. Haven also provides case management, housing services, workforce development services, parent training, GED classes, ID recovery, and financial literacy classes to help individuals overcome and thrive as they progress toward reentry into society.

“I think one of the unique things about Haven is it meets people where they are at,” Jefferies said.

She said the idea for Haven for Hope originated after Bill Greehey and a San Antonio task force found that no organization was comprehensively tackling the problem of homelessness in the city. The nonprofit became fully operational in 2010 and serves nearly 10,000 people per year.

Jefferies explained that the campus has two sides. One side has strict requirements and is meant for individuals who are progressing toward becoming housed. The other side has no restrictions and is intended as a facility for people who are dealing with homelessness and the various problems often associated with it.

“One side is transformational, so you do have to be sober, you do have to have an ID, you have to be willing to commit to some programming, and you do have to be a resident of Bexar County,” Jefferies said.

“On the other side of the campus, it is, to me, kind of those people who are coming from that unsheltered experience, so no ID requirement, no sobriety requirement, no requirement for residency, and no requirement for programming,” she said.

Haven for Hope also provides animal services, including dog and cat care facilities, to reduce the barriers many homeless people encounter at other shelters.

Jefferies said the campus offers specialized programs for individuals with unique circumstances, including veterans, young adults, people coming out of the jail system, and people who need more medical care, among other specialized programs.

“At Haven, someone can really address the trauma that led them to homelessness,” Jefferies said. “I think that is what some people don’t understand. The link in most people is trauma they have experienced, whether in childhood, whether in military service, whatever it is that led them to their homelessness.”

Jefferies said the campus is designed for 1,450 individuals but currently houses 1,650 people.

“I am still unaware to this day how much need there is that we are not even serving yet. I am sad that we have to have a place like Haven, but also happy that we have a Haven,” she said.

Despite the success Haven for Hope has seen in its comprehensive approach to homelessness, the City of Dallas has yet to try a similar strategy. On the municipal level, there is considerable disagreement over the causes of and solutions to homelessness and the scope of the problem itself.

Meanwhile, Dallas residents continue to point to homelessness, vagrancy, and aggressive panhandling as “major” concerns in the city.

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