03/18/2013 11:55 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Can We End Homelessness?

The issue of homelessness has made headlines across the country. The question is, can we end homelessness? Our response is realistically, yes and no. Yes, we can for the vast majority of people in need, if we support a proven path that leads to sustainable self-sufficiency. No, for the few who suffer from severe mental and physical health issues; however, basic human needs of shelter and food must still be met. Why would we support the idea of helping the homeless? Because it is not only the right thing to do, but it is in all of our best interest to do so for public health and safety as well as financial stability reasons for our governments, communities and even our own financial health. Our question is: Do we have the collective will to make a significant and measurable dent in ending homelessness?

Since 1994 all of us at A Safe Haven Foundation, a nonprofit social service agency and related for-profit social businesses enterprises dedicated to creating jobs and serving as employers to people with employment barriers, have partnered with a network of public and private partners to achieve a common mission -- the pursuit of solving the issue of homelessness for people and families in need -- one person at a time. Since then, the vast majority of more than 44,000 people who were homeless have achieved self-sufficiency through the A Safe Have holistic model. Consistent with the theme throughout our history to Aspire, Transform and Sustain, the individuals you meet residing at A Safe Haven aspire for a stable lifestyle, transform through adult education courses and job skills training programs, and gain the confidence and skills to sustain employment and housing that allows them to support themselves and their families.

Over the last 19 years, at A Safe Haven we are proud to have designed a unique, vertically integrated "eco-system" that assists homeless individuals and families to pursue and achieve their God-given potential. The process is simple and rooted by empirical evidence. We assess and help people in need to address, alleviate and resolve the problems that led to financial crisis and homelessness, whether it is chronic or for the first time. Programming is assessment-driven and may include treatment, education, job training and placement, life skills training, financial literacy, and a myriad of other services structured to help each individual become self-sufficient. These changes also improve the lives of the families that they support and break the cycle of generational poverty.

As we all know, the high cost of homelessness and poverty on our communities is manifested in high unemployment/underemployment, increase in crime, demand for drugs and illegal weapons, rampant violence, skyrocketing school truancy and dropout rates. We believe that nothing can replace the importance of empowering people with social and economic stability, which will help them break the cycle of poverty and provide them with the skills necessary to sustain long-term self-sufficiency. We cannot think of a better investment that offers a better return than investing in our most precious resource -- people.

During this pivotal time in our nation's history when we are facing the many issues that result from homelessness and poverty, we are proud to be considered a national model and to have been noticed by leadership from other major cities across the country. For the first time at A Safe Haven, we are considering our options to expand the A Safe Haven footprint beyond Illinois.

Although our approach is considered innovative, we are not new at tackling the issue of homelessness nor do we do it alone. We are blessed with outstanding support of proactive Board members, partners, sponsors, donors, volunteers, professional staff, the business community and the community, at large. I consider it to be a personal privilege to be part of this life giving organization.

As life-long constituents of our great City of Chicago, State of Illinois and our country, the United States of America, as private citizens, our promise to the people we serve and our supporters is that we will continue to do our part to restore our home to the world class status it deserves. That said, the need for our services has never been greater and more support is needed.

For many of us to believe that transformation is possible, it helps to put a face to the issue and it is also important to witness, firsthand, the sustainability of stabilizing individuals in need. Meet Melissa and Robert. They came to A Safe Haven in 1998 and 1999, respectively. Robert in the video is a military veteran.

If you, too, aspire for a better world, to see people in need transform their lives to self-sufficiency and sustain themselves long-term, we invite you to consider joining and engaging with us in a meaningful and intentional way to create more unforgettable stories of trial and triumph. Every day at A Safe Haven, by surrounding ourselves with like-minded people, including public and private organizations brought together by a common vision, great things happen. It is exciting to see what we accomplish by crystalizing, galvanizing, strategizing and executing on our vision together to achieve a whole greater than the sum of its parts and shaping a better future socially and economically. Best of all, it will be the power of our own stories that we will tell others and future generations about the role we played, large or small, to make a difference that will energize us and inspire others to for years to come!

To learn more visit us at