Thursday, April 15, 2010

1,400 bed $100 Million Dollar Haven for Hope Opens


S.A. homeless haven has become a reality

By Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje and Brian Chasnoff- Express-News

Web Posted: 04/15/2010 12:00 CDT

Local and state officials release butterflies during the Haven for Hope dedication ceremony. LISA KRANTZ/lkrantz@express-news.net

Among the many in business attire who gathered Wednesday for a jubilant dedication of the new Haven for Hope campus, Richard Hartzog worked quietly in an old T-shirt, ferrying chairs back and forth across a crisp, serene courtyard.

Hartzog, 50, is homeless, exactly the sort of person for whom the $100 million transformation center was built. An addict of gambling and morphine, he's been volunteering at the burgeoning campus — sweeping, scrubbing bathrooms, washing windows — for the past month.

A resident of the SAMMinistries emergency shelter, he received an unexpected reward from NuStar Energy Chairman Bill Greehey, who put his arm around Hartzog during a break.

“You know what,” Greehey said, “I'll tell (SAMMinistries) the ones that have been working over here ought to be the first ones” to move in.

Greehey, who was the driving force behind making Haven for Hope a reality, later took to the podium to rejoice that opening day of the homeless campus finally had arrived.

“It's pretty amazing that in less than three years we've gone from a vision for Haven for Hope to a fully operational campus,” said Greehey, who's also chairman of Haven for Hope. “It takes some people three years to build a house.”

Greehey introduced a long list of elected officials, social service workers and other dignitaries who played roles in the development of the 37-acre campus, which will provide a range of services for nearly 1,400 homeless people, from showers, beds and meals to job training, counseling and education.

“Haven for Hope's primary mission is to provide caseworkers that will work with the homeless on transformation,” he said. “These folks are going to spend 40 hours a week going to class or working. I think we will see a success rate of more than 60 percent, meaning one year later, they will have a job, be living on their own and on a self-sustaining basis.”

The 940-bed campus on the western edge of downtown will open to men on April 26; women and families begin arriving in May. An outdoor courtyard will sleep another 400 people. Greehey said he expects the campus to be fully operational by June.

“This has truly been a community effort,” he said. “It's been a collective effort by the state, county, city and the private sector. We've raised almost $100 million in a very poor economy, and we only have $2 million more to go.”

He celebrated the facilities that already are up and running, including the $6.1 million Restoration Center, which provides detoxification and counseling to substance abusers and the mentally ill; and the medical, vision and dental clinic, which since opening in March 2009 has seen 15,000 patients and provided 53,000 treatments.

So far, representatives from more than 190 cities and 11 foreign countries have visited Haven for Hope, which has become a national model for a transformational homeless center, Greehey said.

“We're going to be saving lives,” he said. “We're not going to solve the homeless problem overnight. There will be problems and obstacles. But we are going to be saving lives.”

Former Mayor Phil Hardberger, who got the ball rolling in 2006 when he dedicated himself to fixing the homelessness problem and tapped Greehey and then-City Councilwoman Patti Radle to head a task force, didn't underplay the significance of the day's dedication.

“Today we witness history,” he said. “When we help one person, we help ourselves. We share a common destiny but not a common path to our destiny. We're going to help thousands of people change themselves, and in that help, we are enriched. In their transformation, we are transformed.”

Hardberger noted that no nation or city is exempt from caring for the homeless, and every religion teaches that the well-off are to care for the poor and needy.

“San Antonio is not a wealthy city, but we are rich in compassion,” he said. “What Haven for Hope is about is giving the homeless back their dignity — breaking the cycle of poverty, getting kids back in school, breaking addictions, getting people out from under the bridge and giving veterans back their right place in society.”

Mayor Julián Castro and County Judge Nelson Wolff also made remarks.

“These are steel and wood buildings, but underneath is love, compassion and faith,” said Castro, who was appointed to a committee in 2003 to find solutions for the city's homeless problem and for years has quietly joined volunteers in the annual Christmas Under the Bridge effort to feed and clothe homeless people.

Wolff, noting the county has provided $11 million for Haven for Hope, said the campus marks a turning point for the county to begin treating the homeless, rather than criminalizing them.

“To just stick these people in the Bexar County Jail is wrong, even criminal to do that,” he said.

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Serves as the Director for Bexar County's new Mental Health Department created in December of 2013 by Commissioners Court. Previously he was the Director of Communications and Diversion Initiatives,The Center for Healthcare Services, Mental Health Authority. • Gilbert Gonzales has more than 29 years of experience in the field of substance abuse and mental health crisis prevention and in treatment provision as a clinician, university faculty member, project/program director and policy advisor. Gilbert Gonzales has led strategic planning, treatment, training and policy development. He continues to lead new systems initiatives that help mental health and substance abuse service providers promote collaboration and build service capacity in support of diverse populations.