CLEVELAND — Just like a mother is to her children, the Haven Home aims to be a nurturing and supportive place with Executive Director Cindy Rios as the lifeline behind it all.
Their monthly diaper distribution is just one of many programs the home offers.
“We give out about 2,000 diapers every month," Rios said. "We ask the families to register in advance so we know we have the sizes available. So we give them a pack of diapers. We give them some baby wipes.”
The home has 17 rooms, which Rios said can comfortably fit around 10 families while they wait to be placed in a more permanent shelter. The Haven Home was established as a “family overflow shelter” in 2017 for homeless women and their children in Cuyahoga County. The shelter exists to provide temporary emergency shelter until a bed becomes available at a family shelter.
“Cuyahoga County is one of the few counties that has a mandate to always provide shelter,” Rios said. “So no one goes unsheltered. So when all the other family shelters are full, they come here.”
Some families stay for a few days while others stay for a few months. Regardless of the length of their stay, Rios and the Haven Home staff try to make every room feel like home.
“I want this to be a place that I would sleep in, and that’s all of our goals here,” she said.
To Rios and the staff, the Haven Home is about more than just putting a roof over the families’ heads. She wants the Haven Home to be that first step in helping moms and their children take control of their lives.
“We treat everybody the same like this is our home and just like in your home," she said. "You would reach out to your neighbors if they were in need. You would help them. We do the same. It's giving them some, some sustainable resources, and helping them form healthy relationships.”
Donations allow Rios and the Haven Home team to offer families three meals a day, laundry, and hygiene items among other necessities.
“When the families come here, they're already in an uncomfortable situation,” Rios said. “They're already experiencing grief and loss. And so we want to make sure that we start out the relationship in a helping mode. We don't want someone to feel uncomfortable by having to ask for some toothpaste or deodorant or any of the basic needs that many of us take for granted.”
Pastor Richard Gibson of the nearby Elizabeth Baptist Church calls the home a critical component of the community.
“This is part of loving our neighbor,” he said. “This is a natural outgrowth of our faith because we're supposed to help those who are sick, those who are homeless, those who are without clothes, those who are without food. And so this is what we're supposed to do.”
He enjoys seeing the Haven Home help all families succeed and credits Rios for helping make that success a reality.
“I'm so impressed with Cindy's leadership and how she and the rest of the staff continue to expand and be nimble to meet the needs of those who come in,” Gibson said. “When we first started this, the focus was primarily on shelter, but it has grown significantly.”
He said he's had his own challenges in life and that he comes into the shelter and sees these families prosper and leave it better than when they entered, carrying with them hope at a critical time in their lives.
“And I just love doing it," he said. "I love being here.”
For more information about the Haven Home you can visit the website here.