9 months ago

Safe Haven will be repurposed

by Carolyn Kell

IFM Safe Haven shelter will be re-purposed

For 21 years chronically homeless people who have been diagnosed with a severe and persistent mental illness have stayed at Safe Haven, operated by Inter-Faith Ministries. Intensive case management, an extended period of stay and fewer regulations than at a traditional shelter were designed to assist people who needed more help than what other shelters could offer. Because of changes in federal funding and increased case management at Inter-Faith Inn, Safe Haven services are being absorbed into Inter-Faith Inn as of July 1, 2018.

“Inter-Faith Ministries made the decision to voluntarily reallocate the HUD funds used to operate Safe Haven,” explained Program Director Christen Sampamurthy. “HUD made it clear a couple years ago that they would cease to fund this type of program as their focus changed to permanent supportive housing from the transitional housing of Safe Haven. Rather than risk the funds being taken away from the Wichita community entirely, we released those funds so they could be used by our local Continuum of Care for other programs to help those in need.”

The Continuum of Care (CoC) is a local planning body that coordinates housing and services funding for homeless families and individuals. Wichita’s CoC is managed by United Way of the Plains and encompasses housing, emergency shelter, mental health, education, and other services with the goal of ending homelessness. All the agencies work together to submit an annual funding grant to HUD for local services. The objective is to provide seamless, integrated services for the homeless community.

Luella Sanders, United Way of the Plains’ Director of Community Impact, applauded IFM’s decision.

“I know it was a difficult decision to make,” she said. “While Safe Haven served a small segment of the homeless community, its unique nature filled a niche. IFM made a very forward-thinking choice that will benefit Wichita. I think it will also benefit IFM by opening up options for the next step in their shelter and case management services.”

With an 18-month planning period, Christen has had plenty of time to work with Safe Haven clients and her case managers to be sure everyone in the facility has a good transition plan in place. People have been referred to other agencies, housing obtained, case management assigned and action plans instituted so that there will be no interruption in service.

“While a part of me is sad that this sort of facility is no longer being funded, I’m also very happy we’ve had time to work with everyone. I’m not worried about any of our current clients, and because we’ve made changes in and improvements to the case management at Inter-Faith Inn, I believe we’ll be able to adequately serve this population.”

As an organization, we try to teach our clients that when one door closes another one opens. That’s certainly how we look at the opportunity to reexamine how the Safe Haven (Ti'Wikoni) building at 841 N. Broadway can be used.

“I truly believe there are greater things still to come,” said Christen. “We will continue to provide vital support to all members of the homeless community, but we’re also looking at trends and metrics in homelessness so our dollars and expertise go where they are most needed.”

Christen points to increases in numbers in two specific demographics. The number of young people, ages 18-25, who are homeless and the number of homeless elderly women have both seen dramatic increases.

“We are looking at how we can best serve those two segments of the population,” said Christen. “Just this morning I talked to an 86-year-old woman who is a new IFM Inn client. She was so grateful to be getting help. It broke my heart to know there are people like this in our community, people who have retirement income – just not enough to get by.”

Program Center, 829 N Market, Wichita, KS 67214|(316) 264-9303