My Dear Friends,
This holiday season, I’d like to highlight Maya Angelou’s beautiful sentiment, “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” In the midst of so much social unrest and polarization in America today, A Safe Haven remains focused on the things that unify people. We believe that as Americans, we are one collective humanity, united by our common ideals and belief in the American Dream.
From A Safe Haven’s perspective in our very small corner of the universe, our vision and mission have never been clearer. I am extremely proud that we have never wavered in our belief that the overwhelming majority of people are inherently good, and that every human being is valuable. This clarity of vision, mission, and purpose has helped us continuously help those who society often leaves behind.
Today, our vision is anchored in a strong history of results that prove our approach to addressing poverty works, one person at a time. We have witnessed that the American Dream is attainable for most of our brothers and sisters, as long as they get the right kind of help. I am profoundly grateful that thousands of you also share a similar belief. Together, we can address the root causes of poverty and homelessness, usher people back into the workforce, find them permanent housing, and restore their pride and purpose. The societal and economic cost of ignoring those in turmoil is simply too great.
From my personal experience growing up in a first generation immigrant/entrepreneurial family, working in finance for over a decade in the private sector, and building a social services and social business enterprise model, the principles for success have always remained the same: we must have a plan, and a model that can be modified and scaled. At A Safe Haven, this belief has never wavered, and our model has consistently produced positive results.
Our integrated “eco-system” is anchored in assessing each individual and creating an exit strategy to move them from poverty and homelessness to their highest level of independence. It is this individualized plan that guides everyone we serve to begin taking the right steps to achieve important milestones on their path to long-term self-sufficiency. I’m reminded of the ancient Chinese Proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Here at A Safe Haven, we believe that to truly help those we serve, we must do both—feed them and teach them to fish until they can survive on their own.
We attribute our significant grassroots growth to the powerful word of mouth of our successful testimonials and our like-minded donors and funders. It is because of so many of you that A Safe Haven was able to step in when government funding was cut and continue to rebuild lives, reunite families, create jobs, and rebuild entire communities. Our unique, integrated network of private/public/community partners have helped us achieve what none of us could achieve on our own. We hope that as a loyal follower and/or supporter of A Safe Haven that you are beaming with pride and joy as you share in the successes of those we have collectively helped get back on their feet.
In the last couple of years, we are grateful that more and more people are noticing our work. Thanks to your support, invitations, and nominations, the work of A Safe Haven is becoming widely known around the globe. I’ve been honored to speak on top stages around the world, and be recognized by leading stake holders in business, government, policy, and academic circles for our innovative and comprehensive model. This month, I was also honored to serve on a very prestigious entrepreneurial and business panel at the Illinois Latino Caucus event. As a recent Latino Leaders Magazine Maestro Award Honoree, I was also honored to be featured for our innovative work with homelessness in the November issue of the Latino Leaders Magazine. While we are grateful for the recognition and credit, we know that our success is your success, due to your support and shared vision.
As we all celebrate this holiday season with friends, family, and loved ones, let’s take a moment to share in the joy of giving back. It only takes a moment to ensure that our neighbors in crisis have the opportunity to pursue their dreams, become independent, and live up to their true potential. In advance of November 29th, and Giving Tuesday, please find us on Facebook and Twitter and be sure to share our Giving Tuesday banner and invite others to join us in our mission to help the homeless right here in Chicago. This year, 100% of the donations from Giving Tuesday will go toward covering the costs of transporting our homeless populations to job interviews and medical appointments as they reenter the workforce and get back on their feet. At A Safe Haven, we transport almost 5,000 people a year from our main campus to jobs, interviews, and medical appointments. The transportation expense can cost up to $20,000 a month in Chicago Transit Authority bus cards, an expense that we sincerely believe it worth every penny.
We understand that choosing where to direct your charitable activities and year-end giving isn’t an easy one. As you are inundated by paper mail, commercials, and emails of innumerable worthy causes to give to, please consider A Safe Haven. As good stewards of your precious resources, we can lift up the lives of poverty stricken populations in need, and empower them to pursue their own American Dreams.
Finally, thank you for the gift of your friendship. We are truly blessed and grateful to have your support, during the holiday season, and throughout the year.
Neli Vazquez Rowland
Co-Founder and President
A Safe Haven Foundation