Safe Haven: Safety, Advocacy, Empowerment

Safe Haven Shelter and Resource Center in Duluth, Minnesota provides services to women, children, and all survivors whose lives have been affected by physical, emotional, sexual, and economic abuse. Their shelter and resource center provides a safe space for women and their children to heal and seek help through advocacy and empowerment. They shelter 500+ women and children and serve 1500+ in their resource center annually.

Safe Haven serves the seven-county area in Northern Minnesota, including St. Louis, Koochiching, Aitkin, Lake, Carlton, Itasca, and Cook counties. They seek to strike a balance between offering services to diverse victims while working toward the erosion of the cultural facilitator that breeds domestic violence. Their services are provided through two locations, their shelter offers temporary refuge to anyone experiencing domestic violence who identifies as a woman or nonbinary person, as well as the survivor’s children and pets. Staff assists those being sheltered in obtaining counseling and protection, as well as other services. Their second location is their Resource Center where they provide a variety of services to domestic violence victims and survivors, for example, legal advocacy, assistance with housing, education, and childcare, safety planning, and emergency phones, opportunities to meet with police, attorneys, therapists, healthcare providers, etc, support groups, youth support, and a drop-in center with a kitchen, shower, lounge, and internet access.

The Resource Center is for all survivors, even those that don’t use the shelter. “The Resource Center offers so many comprehensive services ranging from legal advocacy to youth programs to our amazing drop-in center that allows individuals to have a homey environment they feel safe in,” explains Jaci Christiansen, Community Engagement Coordinator at Safe Haven. “We really want to make sure that we are supporting a survivor as they move from fear to freedom. Our advocates are incredibly in tune with all the different resources within our community to make sure the clients we work with have community support as they transition to not needing our services anymore.”

Safe Haven staff acknowledge that access to appropriate mental health support in our region is always difficult. “Many of the individuals we work with have experienced complex forms of trauma and once they find themselves on that path to freedom, working through that trauma is important but not always possible if they don’t have access to a mental health provider.”

The Safe Haven Shelter is almost always at or over capacity. Half of the women who are homeless in Minnesota are homeless because of domestic violence. Their shelter has 39 beds, but they are often “over-full”. “Whenever we’re able, we allow for families (moms with children, especially teenage boys) to have their own, private spaces in an otherwise communal living environment. We are also a unique shelter because we do accept pets of all shapes, sizes, and species because pets are family too. We want to remove any boundaries that may be preventing someone to seek out safety in the shelter.” said Jaci.

The high utilization of services means the shelter can always use a hand. This year at the Duluth Women’s Expo donations were collected for the shelter and resource center – specifically personal hygiene products like shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, and socks and underwear. “We do our best to make sure that someone’s basic needs are met the entire time they are in the shelter. The hygiene products are some of the first things that we give someone when they arrive in the shelter to start that promise that we will take care of them while they are staying with us. Many of those who come into shelter may arrive with just the clothing on their backs. Having socks, underwear and pajamas provide the basic comfort items that someone needs to feel safe and comfortable as they settle into shelter life.” The shelter is also in great need of unrestricted donations that allow them to be nimble and adaptive as needs arise – including new support programs and creative opportunities to meet the needs of the survivors they serve.

Domestic violence is still a very real problem today. Jaci explains, “A lot of folks think of domestic violence as being a part of our cultural history, but it’s still prevalent in our community today at an alarming rate. Physical violence is happening, and so is emotional abuse. Bruises aren’t the only indicator of a violent relationship, so we encourage everyone to look out for one another and be brave enough to check on your friends and loved ones if you’re concerned. We can always help you find the right words- call us any time.”

Learn more about donating, volunteering, getting involved, etc., they can contact us at: outreach@safehavenshelter.org.