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Shelter Program Celebrates New Digs

The 6,700-square-foot building can accommodate up to 20 men and women, referred by the Daily Planet's central intake office, for a period of six months to a year. While there, residents will receive an array of services that include life-skills training and substance-abuse counseling.

Since it had to vacate its location on Clay Street in 1999 to make room for the city's new convention center, Safe Haven has, in effect, been homeless itself. A significantly scaled-back version of the program had existed in a site on Porter Street. It could serve only eight people. The new $1 million facility is funded by a loan from the Virginia Housing Development Authority and a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Finding a location was difficult. When the Daily Planet first announced it would build in Manchester on Hull Street, longtime residents and retailers objected to housing the mentally ill in a community with a reputation for crime and more than its share of social-service programs for the poor and down-and-out.

But those worries appear to have softened, says Safe Haven Director Angela Mitchell. Many of those nearby observed the careful construction, learned what the program offered and met residents and staff. Now, Mitchell says, Safe Haven feels like it belongs.

"They're so glad to be here," she says of the 18 clients residing at Safe Haven. She cites as key the proximity to downtown and being on the bus line.

So is timing. Winter lies ahead.

"Our ultimate goal is to transition residents back into the community based on their needs," Mitchell stresses. For now, shelter is need No. 1. — Brandon Walters

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