The 30 men and women staying at SHARE's Safe Haven shelter were going to be out on the street last night, but the good people at St. James Cathedral on First Hill have agreed to extend their stay until the end of September. Safe Haven had been inhabiting part of the federal INS building in SoDo for three years, but was kicked out last spring after the 77,000-square-foot space was purchased by a group of investors. St. James provided a temporary solution until Safe Haven organizers could find a new place to sleep, preferably near Pioneer Square or SoDo. But a summer's worth of diligent search produced only a binder full of no's from city and county officials, and business owners.
Safe Haven, organized by the homeless, for the homeless, is a well-run operation that screens people off-site and has strict rules requiring them to be sober and to not loiter. They show up no earlier than 7 p.m. and are required to disperse no later than 8 a.m. the next morning. A recent visit found a congenial and quiet crowd-- an ex-con, an Alaskan fishing boat worker, a 19-year-old mother-to-be, an out-of-work actor-- thankful for a safe place to sleep and, hopefully, an opportunity (in the words of one) "to get their stuff together."
Most have had to sleep outside in the past and see Safe Haven as a necessary option in a city with stretched shelter space. "It's embarrassing to say that I slept outside, but I did," says Kat Bryant, who's due next month and plans to name her baby Makala Marie. "Everybody's nice here. They're respectful. Responsible. There's no drama. No violence. Everybody does their share."
Many of the Safe Haven regulars have been involved in the site search effort. Word is they may be getting closer.