Evie Kumar

This is a challenging time for everyone, including nonprofits. Even if you are not directly affected by COVID-19, its impacts are all around us. Safe Haven Maternity Home is no exception.

We offer safe housing, life skills classes, mentorship, transportation and a hope for a better future to pregnant women and women with infants who are at risk. We can house up to eight women and their children, and we have been at capacity for many months now.

We get multiple calls a week from our community and other states around asking if we have an opening. Being pregnant or with an infant and homeless is a scary feeling any time, but during this crisis the feeling has intensified for this vulnerable population. Our hearts break when we hear the stories and have to tell an at-risk mother there is no room before placing them on our waiting list. The need for the services we offer is great in our community and our nation.

COVID-19 has also impacted how we offer services. The greatest challenge in our daily operations is to maintain a routine; currently, our residents daily routine has been uprooted. Counseling appointments, drug court, 12-step meetings and school are all being done online. All visits to our home were stopped, and meetings with necessary community partners happen outside while maintaining social distancing.

Our residents have banded together to support each other’s sobriety. In cooperation with Oregon Health Authority regulations, residents and staff are required to take their temperatures daily, increase sanitizing of the home and increase handwashing. Some of these practices seem tedious, but in a community living situation they are vital to ensure the health and well-being of our residents and staff.

Having to stay home in a house full of women — each with their own child — in ever-tightening quarters has the potential for drama. However, our residents are coping well. They have taken advantage of this time to work outside. They have come up with ideas to improve their surroundings. We have pulled weeds, planted flowers and vegetables, and enjoyed other healthy activities, such as walking. They have taken a bad situation and found productive and healthy ways to cope. They have all bonded through this time and have expressed multiple times how thankful they are to be living at Safe Haven, given what’s happening in the world.

Another big obstacle many nonprofits face is funding, and Safe Haven is no different. We operate with donations from community members, local businesses, grants, fundraisers and other streams of income. Most of our income is not stable as we depend upon the generosity of others. Our community has been an amazing support network that has enabled us to operate since 1992.

COVID-19 has added a new dynamic to our fundraising plans. It is hard to ask community partners to donate when they are experiencing job loss or other hardships associated with the COVID-19 crisis. We have been amazed at the generosity we have received. We have seen granters offer easy-access grants. We have seen people, including former clients, donate money from their own stimulus checks.

We rely heavily on donations of household items like paper towels and cleaning supplies. Though donation of these items has slowed down due to supply and demand, we have had community groups come together to collect supplies for us. We partner with Bottle Drop, who allows people to donate the refunds from their bottles and cans to us. We have come up with new strategies to get our blue bags out there, like mailing them to supporters. As people find time to clean their houses, we have seen an increase in our bottle donation.

We were one of the first organizations to receive fabric face masks from community groups like Douglas County Helpers and other private donors. This was vital to allow our staff and residents to remain safe.

We are forever grateful for the generosity of our community, in good and bad times. We don’t what is coming next. Our community’s need may be greater than Safe Haven’s capacity, but we are confident that greater things are to come. We have seen hope in the hard times.

Evie Kumar is the executive director at Safe Haven Maternity Home.

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