Haven Center Helping People Get Ahead

posted 1/14/21 -- Residents of the Haven Center in South Lorain are like closed up flowers before they blossom in Getting Ahead, said Director of Shelter and Outreach Gloria Olivencia.

Gloria has now helped coordinate two Getting Ahead classes at the center, both interrupted by complications from COVID-19.

“It’s always good to educate them,” said Gloria, who regularly offers classes and learning opportunities to provide skills, hope and sense of purpose to the Haven Center residents. “I just thought this could be another thing they could learn.”

The Haven Center is the largest homeless shelter in Lorain and the only one offering 24-hour shelter to single men, single women and families. They offer case management as well as rehousing assistance. Forming Getting Ahead and other groups help them see they are not alone, Gloria said.

“A lot of these people, they’re not family,” she said. “They come from all over and they become family. You can see the light bulbs going off in their heads and all of a sudden you see them working as a team.”

Ten residents were part of a GA group in March when COVID-19 put an abrupt end to their meetings. While facilitators worked to establish online meetings, two women who had been at Haven Center made a superhuman effort to finish the session they called “essential.”

A new, all-online group formed in the fall and quickly gelled. With only two sessions left, the meetings were ended when COVID cases were found at the center itself.

“I was never late for class. I was always early,” said Gary, one group member eager to interact with his friends again. “I want to prove that I belong in a class like that. I jumped in with both feet and loved it ever since.”

Gary had been sleeping in portable toilets and abandoned trailers after he had to leave the apartment he had shared with his sister. Getting Ahead is a judgment free zone where participants can share as much or as little as they choose. Gary appreciated that aspect and still found himself sharing more than he expected to.

“Getting Ahead makes you think a lot about how your life could be better,” he said. “It brings back a lot of bad memories but it brings up a lot of good memories. It helps me open up.”

Gloria said she was amazed at the transformation Getting Ahead brought about in her clients.

“They are really looking and reflecting on themselves,” she said. “Mapping out their own life and really looking at how they got where they are.”

Gary became especially dedicated, helping Gloria set up computers, assisting his new found friends and getting up early to read ahead in the Getting Ahead book.

“He is the most helpful person you can ever meet,” added GA Facilitator Nancy Ann Smith. “He has self taught computer skills and he’s always so quick to share them.”

Participants from the Haven Center say they have learned so much from Getting Ahead, they encourage everyone to take advantage of it.

“It was the best decision of my life,” said Shelly.

New groups are now forming. Contact Amy Steele at 440-204-3121 or [email protected]