Providing Shelter was the Haven’s “Founding Principle”
The Upper Valley Haven began as a shelter. A 1981 Valley News article recounts that one of the founders, Rev. Richard Cockrell of St. James in Woodstock, was “worried about the many people in the Valley who needed…physical shelter—families turned out of their homes, transients with nowhere to stay, women fleeing violent husbands, people from far away needing to stay near hospitalized relatives.”¹
Of course, over 40 years, the need Rev. Cockrell identified has only grown. With cycles of economic recession, substance use disorder, and poverty, homelessness has become an entrenched societal ill. So even as the Haven’s programs have broadened, shelter remains fundamental.
“Shelter was the founding principle of the Haven,” explains Adult Programs Clinical Supervisor Becky Hadley. “We started as a shelter in the old farmhouse on the hill where Hixon House is now.” In normal times (pre-COVID), 20 adults live at Hixon House, eight families live in the Byrne Family Shelter, and in the cold weather, another 15 could be housed in the emergency shelter set up in the Caruso Café in the Byrne Community Building. COVID-19 has cut those numbers in half and caused the short-term closing of the cold-weather shelter.
“We’re full all the time and have a waiting list,” Becky continues. “We work hard to take a strengths-based approach, looking at each person as an individual. We aim to be welcoming, ensure they have a voice, and that they feel safe and respected.” Other than the emergency shelter, both Byrne and Hixon are designed so that guests have personal space—which allows for both privacy and independence.
Haven service coordinators work with guests continuously to help them secure permanent housing, such as applying for housing vouchers, which are a scarce commodity. “Even once you apply, there are long waiting lists for housing vouchers. It averages four months for a single adult to find housing and can take six months or more for families. Housing is a huge challenge in the Upper Valley,” she concludes. “There’s not enough affordable housing to go around.”
But many successful searches occur at the Haven. Even in this year of the pandemic, over 22 households and 35 people were able to leave the Haven and cross the threshold of a new home. Rev. Cockrell would be proud but also know that the work continues.
¹ Donella Meadows. “The Haven: Dedication Made a Dream Happen.” Valley News, 14 May, 1983.
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