Menlo Park-based InnVision Shelter Network unveils new brand

Homeless services nonprofit to be called LifeMoves

After a year in the works, a new name and brand for InnVision Shelter Network, the Menlo Park-based homeless services nonprofit, was announced Jan. 26.

The organization will continue its same services, providing shelters and resources for people facing homelessness from Daly City to San Jose, but under a new "LifeMoves" brand, said Amy Wright, LifeMoves vice president of development.

The name change comes about three and a half years after a merger of two nonprofits, InnVision and the Shelter Network, that left a lengthy title in its wake.

The idea behind the new name is that the organization facilitates "life moves," or major life transitions, for its clients by offering them support in a number of different categories: housing, career, finance, education and health.

LifeMoves helps clients make housing "moves" with housing search assistance and direct help with first and last month rent payments; career "moves" with resume prep, interview training, and employment search assistance; and financial "moves" with financial literacy education.

The nonprofit supports learning "moves" with programs such as legal assistance, conflict resolution, parenting skills training, and support in seeking high school completion or higher education.

Health "moves" are facilitated with mental and physical support and counseling.

Kids get a wide range of services too, including homework support, art therapy, anti-bullying workshops, and STEM programs offered by volunteers. There's a Stanford-themed room for teens full of board games.

Jacob Stone, general manager of the Haven Family House in Menlo Park, said there are teens who live at the family shelter who run into each other at Menlo-Atherton High School. Group meetings for teens help them understand they're not the only one experiencing homelessness.

Each family receives a case manager who works to help tenants get out of whatever situation they're in, said Mr. Stone.

"There's no one size fits all," said Bruce Ives, CEO of LifeMoves.

Haven House provides housing for 23 families and a range of additional services. The organization has family shelters across San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Thirty-nine families live in a San Mateo facility, nine in Redwood City, and soon, 15 families will be accommodated at a location under renovation in Daly City. Two other facilities in San Jose offer interim shelter for up to 110 women and children total, and another serves family fire victims in San Jose. Six other shelters offer interim and stabilization shelter for single adults.

Haven House offers four closets, or, more aptly rooms, stuffed with items that tenants can access: food, clothes, housewares, and toys for the children. Laundry facilities are available for a small fee. Parents are allowed to pick gifts from the toy closet for their own kids, but so are kids who are invited to go to friends' birthday parties.

"No one wants to be the only kid at a birthday party who doesn't bring a gift," said Mr. Ives.

All amenities and rent are free, but in exchange, tenants are asked to save at least 50 percent of their income, said Mr. Ives. On average, people stay at the facility for 165 days and leave with about $2,000 in savings, he said.

About half of the people at the Haven Family House, Mr. Stone said, are veterans or families.

Ligala is one of those veterans, who moved into the Haven Family House with her 9-year son, Daniel, in September. He's now attending Belle Haven School, which his mom says Daniel loves. She's plastered the bedroom wall with his homework assignments, each emblazoned with a blue star.

She says he wants to play football at Stanford, but she isn't sure she likes that idea. Between job and apartment searching, attending workshops and group meetings, she said, "we keep busy."

Still, she said, the search for housing is frustrating. She's waiting to hear back about several "below market rate" housing opportunities, and is hoping to land a place where Daniel can stay in the same school. But she also has broadened her search for affordable housing as far as Sacramento.

Helping people find affordable housing, Mr. Ives said, has increasingly involved widening the search radius. Still, he said, the program has a 97 percent success rate in helping families find permanent affordable housing, and an 82 percent success rate for individuals.

Mr. Ives said Haven House is seeing a growing number of clients who are senior citizens and people living on fixed incomes who cannot meet the demands of higher rent.

The entire LifeMoves organization attracts 36,000 volunteers each year to help out, he said. There are couple of reasons, he said, for such large-scale support. First, he said, the infrastructure of the organization gives volunteers efficient, productive ways to give back. Second, he said, "I think when volunteers see how hard our clients are working, it's motivating. It takes a village to get people housed."

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Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 26, 2016 at 8:43 am

I cringe thinking about the amount of time, money, resources, etc wasted on this unncessary rebranding.

Like this comment
Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 26, 2016 at 2:56 pm

Interesting to read the rise of senior citizen applicants who are struggling. Surely this area can come up with solutions for those no longer able to earn a living. I think this is only going to get worse if the local municipalities don't do something about affordable housing. Kinda makes sidewalks on Santa Cruz look, hmmmm, not so vital?

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