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A bridge to somewhere


Haven for Hope, San Antonio’s one-stop service center for homeless individuals and families, is scheduled to open its facilities in early 2010. Its integrated-partnership model is based on best practices culled from campuses in San Diego, St. Louis, Miami, and Phoenix, and will bring together health and dental care, job training and placement, three square meals, transitional housing, and a host of other services on a 37-acre state-of-the-art campus on downtown’s western flank. Haven’s features will include a professional kitchen, a non-denominational chapel, a kennel for pets, legal and banking services, and family housing. Following the initial success of its Restoration Center detox and rehabilitation program, which opened in April 2008, Haven’s debut is hotly anticipated by both homeless-service advocates and the downtown business community, who expect a quick reduction in the tourist-deterring homeless campers who line the doorway of Bill Miller and hold court in Travis Park. But some activists remain concerned about key Haven proposals, such as the enforcement of panhandling and vagrancy ordinances as a way of steering folks to Haven, and the level of services to be provided in Prospects Courtyard, the secure outdoor sleeping and congregation area for individuals who aren’t enrolled in Haven’s transitional programming.

Dallas’ The Bridge, which opened in May 2008, is based on a similar homeless-outreach model. After a rocky start, it has met its service and budget goals and is now the critical darling of former opponents. Although it differs in some key respects from Haven’s blueprint — it does not provide transitional housing for families, for instance — its early lessons may give us a clue to Haven’s obstacles and opportunities.

Next week, the Current will take a closer look at Haven’s progress and potential impact.

Click here to read Sam Merten's story, A bridge to Somewhere from the Dallas Observer.

— Elaine Wolff