Haven House Transitional Living Center, with its new early learning center, will further enhance its ability to help children, parents at the house and in the community.
The center serves families and single mothers with specific programs and housing for up to 18 months, with the goal of transitioning clients from homelessness to self-sufficiency. Haven House, which hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking for its learning center project Thursday, currently houses 42 kids and doesn’t have that extra space to give parents breathing room to pursue job opportunities.
The Kid’s Haven Early Learning Center (ELC) will change that.
“It’s literally a godsend and lifesaver for the families here to succeed,” Haven House Executive Director Rose Verheul said following the ceremony.
“It’s been the hardest challenge. Parents can’t succeed and go to work and become self-sufficient if they’re stuck at home taking care of their children 24 hours a day.”
The ELC was originally scheduled to open Oct. 1, but is now targeting a Dec. 1 opening for the full-time daycare. The hope and goal for the ELC is to push past previous limitations and open up additional opportunities for parents and children at Haven House. The daycare will be somewhat limited to the community to start, but once further developments are completed, it will be open to the community.
“Our goal for putting in this center is to help our parents be able to go out for work, get a full-time job, become self-sufficient while we help and educate their kids,” Verheul said during the ceremony.
Many of the first kids Verheul has helped struggled to maintain attentiveness during “circle time,” and weren’t all too familiar with books, though they have since improved their learning thanks to help from staff and Hilltop Community Resources’ Parents As Teachers program.
With the ELC, staff can work to prevent needing to bridge any gap — numerous kids that are homeless aren’t able to receive similar education. But the ELC will provide a vital resource to the center, and one it hasn’t experienced since Verheul joined five years ago, while giving parents a chance to chase and find job opportunities.
“Bringing this in now and immediately and being able to teach these little ones at such an early age, we’re able to bridge that gap before it even starts, and that’s our goal,” said Verheul as she addressed Thursday’s crowd.
The hope is, after the small center is open, and once the wing is added, infants, preschoolers and toddlers will be able to join the daycare. Until then, the daycare will serve children ages 2 to 6.
Also, the new wing enables families at Haven House to enter a safe, sober living apartment where they’ll receive valuable learning tools before entering communal living.
“This will actually help all of our residents, our participants, once they graduate, go into clean, sober living into an apartment before they go out and find another place, so we’re really, really excited about all the opportunities we have here,” Verheul said.
When Verheul brought up the idea of a daycare, there were questions if the nonprofit could make it a reality. But Larry and Lillian Fredericksen, founders of Haven House, jumped right in, sure of the nonprofit’s need for a daycare center.
Bob Nicholson, a Haven House board member, is leading development of the project. During the ceremony, Nicholson spoke of the donation of the modular classroom, and later thanked property owners of the site where the facility is located for allowing Haven House to place the daycare center adjacent to the main building, otherwise, “there wouldn’t have been room for it,” he said.
Haven House lost furniture and equipment donated for the ELC during a storage fire on Oct. 3. Since then, the “community has really stepped up,” Verheul said, helping offset the loss. Olathe First Assembly of God, Methodist Church, an anonymous donor from Alpine Bank in Delta and others have all offered their support to the nonprofit.
“It is amazing what the community has pulled through,” Verheul said. “We’ve been getting literally the back ends of trucks coming in saying I have a donation for you. We feel what we lost is tragic for us, but the community has turned it right around and has come to serve.”
Haven House lost equipment and furniture intended for the ELC when Olathe Mini Storage burned down at the beginning of the month. It also lost items that had been donated as Christmas gifts for Haven House kids and others. To donate to Haven House, visit havenhousehomeless.org, its Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/havenhousehomeless/, or call 970-323-5280.