Community - December 1, 2010

Holiday Fund: Families find shelter at Haven Family House

Submitted by Michele Jackson, executive director, Shelter Network.

Shelter Network's Haven Family House is an expansive and welcoming shelter located at the end of Van Buren Road in Menlo Park. Since opening two decades ago, the shelter has served as a home away from home for more than 1,000 families in need.

In the past year, nearly 100 families, including nearly 250 children, found safety and support at Haven Family House. The majority of the families said they became homeless following the loss of a job or after their hours were cut at work, and they were unable to make ends meet.

Each of these families was referred to Shelter Network and Haven Family House. As a result of the support they received, 96 percent of the families that graduated returned to stable housing quickly — within an average of 112 days.

Karen Van Pelt and her three daughters were just one of the families that found shelter at Haven Family House this year.

Karen was born and raised on the Peninsula and had always worked to support herself.

"I never imagined that I would ever be homeless," she says. "But after being laid off from my job and losing my mom to cancer, it happened — my children and I became homeless.

"Thankfully, we were referred to Shelter Network. But there was a waiting list. They placed my girls and me in a motel so that we would be safe until there was space at the shelter. Not long after, we were provided with a temporary home — an apartment at Haven Family House. It was beautiful and the staff were so understanding and helpful."

Within a few weeks of arriving, Karen found another job — though part-time, there was a possibility for it to become full-time. For the next four months, Karen and her kids took full advantage of all of the programs Shelter Network has to offer.

"I received coaching and endless support from my amazing case manager," Karen says. "I also participated in life and financial skill workshops, and my older daughters got counseling and participated in the teen group as well as after-school activities. And, while I was working, Aaliyah, my youngest daughter, stayed in the free on-site child development center, which also helps children overcome the trauma of being homeless."

Last month, Karen's job became full-time and with Shelter Network's help, she was able to find and move into a new place. "It's just a one bedroom but to us it is home," she says.

Today, Karen is a grateful and proud person, mother and employee. She is currently participating in Shelter Network's Follow Up program and looking forward to joining the Alumni Group. And her daughter Aaliyah is still spending her days in the program's child development center. Karen enjoys going back each evening to pick her up.

"The staff are like family," she says. "And I am so grateful for all they did for me."

"We are proud of Karen, her girls and all of our graduates," says Michele Jackson, Shelter Network's executive director. "We are also grateful for the generous support we receive from so many in the community. Without it, our efforts and the success of those we reach would not be possible. So on behalf of the 4,397 men, women and children we helped this past year, Thank You!"

Visit or call 685-5880 for more information. Your donations to the Holiday Fund benefit Shelter Network and nine other community-service organizations. To donate, go to


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