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Safe Harbor Marks Year Under New Leadership

Safe Harbor director says community support has helped shelter stay strong despite separation from Community Action Committee of Lehigh Valley and economy.

Last October, budget cuts led the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley (CACLV) to give up control of Safe Harbor, a shelter for homeless single men and women near downtown Easton.

With a volunteer advisory board overseeing operations, Safe Harbor Inc. once again found itself taking full responsibility for all aspects of the building, the programs, hiring of staff and raising money for the programs.

And it has risen to the challenge, thanks to both internal and external support, said Tyler Rogers, executive director of Safe Harbor.

“The community has been amazing,” said Rogers. “We raised $121,000 last year with community support and donations.”

Fundraising in 2010 amounted to just under $60,000.

The increase in 2011 fundraising has enabled Rogers to move from director and case manager to executive director.

A full-time case manager and full-time secretary have been added, which helps maintain consistency and care for the residents.  A grant writer was also hired to help generate additional funding.

Community support has come from many areas including the faith community, the Salvation Army, State Representative Robert Freeman, Mayor Sal Panto and volunteers. Local organizations have held benefits on Safe Harbor’s behalf.

Local Giant and Weis food stores have been donating leftover baked goods and fruit. Giant has also been donating gift cards, which enables Safe Harbor to purchase needed food and supplies. Lafayette College students help out four days each week, providing resume assistance, game night, and just talking with residents.

“So many residents don’t have family. When they see people returning week after week and caring, it allows them to open up in ways that are important,” Rogers said referring to Lafayette’s students.

In addition, Rogers has had success speaking at churches and schools where he brings Safe Harbor’s “success stories” to share their experience. These people who share their private adversity and path to becoming self-sufficient are so moving that Safe Harbor received an anonymous $5,000 donation after a recent speaking engagement.

“It’s so easy to do my job when we have residents who are doing what they need to do,” Rogers said. 

Safe Harbor’s Recovery Center also celebrated its one-year anniversary this month. The Easton Recovery Center was designed to provide a venue where any member of the community could come for sober socializing, referrals for treatment, and support.

There are nine groups each week for everything from AA, NA, gambling to men’s groups, women’s groups and more. The Recovery Center is consumer-driven, with groups led by someone who has gone through his or her own recovery.

There is also an employment group in the Recovery Center. This is an important component to help people get back on their feet. Rogers is able to match up people coming in for help with his contacts in the community.

“A lot of people are intimidated by AA and NA. We wanted to provide something more where people’s voices could be heard, and to make it easier for people to find out how to get help,” Rogers said.

Safe Harbor has a $70,000 contract with Northampton County Drug and Alcohol for the Recovery Center. Bethlehem Drug and Alcohol is also a partner.

All of this support has enabled Safe Harbor to continue to provide services and programs for a significant part of the Easton community.

As of June 30, 2012, Safe Harbor has: served 302 clients; helped 107 clients get jobs; helped 79 clients find entitlement benefits; assisted 92 clients with drug and alcohol treatment; assisted 97 clients with mental health treatment, and served more than 35,000 meals including a hot, nutritious breakfast and lunch every day of the year. 

Yet with 31 beds, up from 26 in past years, Safe Harbor turns away 30-35 people each day. The Safe Harbor team works to ensure that those who call are referred someplace, or finds some alternative -- if only temporarily -- if the shelter cannot take them in. The ones who are taken in are the lucky ones, actively invested in working toward self-sufficiency and getting the message of Safe Harbor out to the community.

The message of Safe Harbor is straightforward. Safe Harbor’s success is dependent on a group effort on the part of the staff, which works diligently to provide services and care, the residents who work to improve their situations, and the community that supports them both.

“Even though we’re small, we’re able to get out there in the community and remind people not to forget about us,” Rogers said. “Safe Harbor continues to need support.”

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