Assignment 7

Women's shelter 'Haven for Peace' faces closure

Friday, December 02, 2011

A shelter that has provided emergency housing to hundreds of women and children for over five decades is in danger of closing due to a lack of funding. Many women credit the Haven of Peace with helping them turn their lives around.

Kristina Cline and her two young children are in a good place. Five months ago, Cline's state aid was cut in half and she could no longer pay her rent while attending community college.

With nowhere to turn to, Cline brought her kids to the Haven of Peace, a shelter just west of Stockton.

"I have never been homeless before, and it was one of the most scariest moments I've probably experienced in my life," said Cline. "Coming to Haven has been like a breath of fresh air for us. It's given us the chance to rest and rebuild, and reassure ourselves so that when we go back out into the world, we're going to be stronger."

"It feels like there's nothing to worry about," said Jernee Cline. "It's a really nice place, and you don't have to worry about. It's a really nice place to live."

About half of Haven's space is for children and their mothers. Many of them are from the Bay area; the rest are single women who need emergency shelter for any reason.

"These ladies are coming in from domestic violence situations, they're coming from substance abuse programs," said director Brenda Castellanos. "We get first-time homeless ladies, people who've lost their jobs (and) their places to live. Some foreclosures."

It's a clean, safe place -- one that may not be here for much longer.

After 52 years, the shelter itself is having financial difficulties. Not only have there been cuts in state and local funding, private donations have dropped way off, and the thrift store that provided most of the Haven's $300,000 operating budget went out of business.

Now the shelter may have to close its doors too.

Yolanda Diaz has a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old girl who were taken from her by Child Protective Services for nine months while she battled with substance abuse. Diaz is clean now and has her girls back.

"I'm headed on the right road," Diaz said.

Denise Marino, 23, came to Haven just one month ago with her young son and daughter.

"I just moved from Idaho, and I need somewhere safe to take my kids," Marino said. "I heard about this place, and I called and they had room for us."

As it is now, the Haven has enough money to get through the holidays. whether the doors stay open after that will depend on finding new sources of government funding, or a flurry of private donations.

Castellanos admitted to being worried about the shelter after Christmas, but added, "We have faith that the community will rally and support us."

"It would really be a shame," said Cline. "There would no longer be that resting place for those women who need it."

If you'd like to help Haven for Peace and get a downloadable list of items that the shelter needs, you can visit their website by clicking here.

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