SIDNEY — Life can throw all types of obstacles at a person. From losing a job or family member, to suffering from stress, illness or other challenges.
For 25 years, SafeHaven Inc., has provided assistance to the residents of Shelby, Miami and Darke counties who need mental health support.
SafeHaven, said Tricia Stemen, recovery coordinator, is a safe place for those in need of help. The mission of SafeHaven is to “offer mental health consumers educational, social and vocational supports in a safe and conducive environment for mental health recovery.”
“We have served Shelby County for 25 years,” said Stemen. “We moved to Shelby County when the counseling center built a new building on Vandemark Road. Before that, we bused Shelby County residents to Miami County every day.”
The organization started in a house in Troy and then moved to Piqua when a building was purchased to provide services.
“We used to see 15 people a day in Piqua, eight a day in Sidney and 10 to 12 a day in Greenville,” said Stemen. “Now we’re seeing 25 to 35 people a day in Sidney and 65 people a day in Piqua.”
The Sidney office is open four days a week from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“We’re open longer because the United Way gave us extra funding,” said Stemen. “All the United Ways do a lot to help us.”
Stemen said SafeHaven provides free transportation for their consumers, free meals and a curriculum of education classes.
“We provide coping skills classes,” she said. “We also talk about the medications they are taking and mental illness in general.
“We also have evidence-based curriculum,” she continued. “We offer Bridges, which is a 12-step program and provides education on how to cope with mental illness. We also have RAP, which is a Recovery Action Plan.”
SafeHaven, said Stemen, offers mental health support to anyone who is over the age of 18. Those in need could be suffering from anxiety, depression or post traumatic stress syndrome.
“We provide an extra piece of the puzzle that is outside of the doctor’s office and other agencies,” said Stemen. “We’re a warm and fuzzy place to go.
“Anybody can walk in and say ‘I need help,’ and we’ll help them,” she said.
Stemen said some of their members have been with SafeHaven for decades.
“We’ve had members age in at 18 and they are still with us in their 50’s,” said Stemen. “They become a lifetime member of SafeHaven.
“Some come in for a year and we don’t see them for a while,” she said. “Then they’llcome back when they need our support again. We do outreach if we don’t hear from them for a long period of time.
“But some of the problems we run into is that their contact information is any good any more,” she said. “We do the outreach to remind them that we’re there for them and that we’re their friends. They’re our family.”
Stemen said holidays are important at SafeHaven. They hold a Thanksgiving meal in November and Christmas party in December. Family picnics are also held.
“We serve five to six turkeys and five to six hams at the holidays,” said Stemen.
“Five years ago, we decided to turn the building in a restaurant,” she said. “The staff and volunteers wait on the tables and serve our members. One of our staff members, who has been with us for 20 years, was given a task to make a menu for the meal.
“She told me she didn’t know how to make a menu because she’d only gone to fast food restaurants to eat,” she said. We took her to a restaurant so she could order off a menu and see what it was like to be waited on.”
The holiday meals, she said, are held at SafeHaven’s Piqua location as it’s the largest building.
“We all look forward to it every year. All of us cook the food,” said Stemen. “It’s just such a good thing to do for our members.”
At Christmas, in addition to the meal, each member receives a small Christmas gift. Santa gives out the presents the day of the dinner.
“Some members have told us that will be the only present they get that year,” said Stemen. “We are one big family. There are no stigmas attached here. This is a place where they are liked for who they are.We take all the judgment out.”
Some members are also referred to, are employed part-time by SafeHaven, said Stemen.
“We are a consumer-run organization,” she said. “By employing the members — who are then called consumers — this gives encouragement to the other members that they can succeed too.”
Stemen said there’s a collective group who comes each day SafeHaven is open.
“Some come in on specific days, like Thursday for classes or on Friday to pick up payments. Some of them are homeless and they have no place else to go.”
Many of the members, she said, live at or below poverty level.
“They are caught in the middle. They have no income. They have no job,” she said.
“There are homeless people in Shelby County,” she said, “and they are crashing on someone’s couch. Then they are couch hopping. They have a roof over their heads, but it’s someone else’s roof.”
One upcoming event is being planned in Piqua.
“We’ll be holding our NAMI picnic on Sept. 20, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Fountain Park in Piqua,” said Stemen.
Stemen, who has been with SafeHaven for 13 years, said she started her career as a social worker with the Local County Juvenile Court.
“I stayed at home a few years with my youngest child,” said Stemen. “The opportunity came up at SafeHaven. At the time, I knew nothing about SafeHaven. They educated me about mental health. I know I’ll retire from here in 20 years.”
Each month, the members go on a field trip. They have also gone on a camping trip when some of them said they had never been camping.
“We’re going camping in September,” she said.”They have to earn points to go. We’ll have about 30 people going. A grant helps us make this experience possible.”
SafeHaven has 23 employees, she said. Three of them are full-time administrators. Two are part-time and work 30 hours a week. There are 20 positions which work in the three counties covered by SafeHaven. They include a site assistants, drivers, lawn care and people who answer the Hope Line at night.
The Hope Line, she said, is a crisis line.
“This gives a person someone to talk to at night,” she said.
SafeHaven, she said, holds fundraisers for the organization. The biggest one is BW3 in Troy.
Stemen said the goal of SafeHaven is to purchase a handicap van.
“We have transportation issues,” she said. “We miss a lot of people because they disabilities and we can’t transport them. My goal is to get a handicap van.”
Free services offered by SafeHaven include support groups, recovery classes, self-esteem and coping skills, job assistance, education, life skills, payeeship/money management, arts, crafts and games, computer/Internet use and caring hearts
The Shelby County office is located at 1101 N. Vandemark Road. The office phone number is (937) 658-6930 SafeHaven also has offices in Miami County, 633 N. Wayne St., Piqua, phone, (937) 615-0126;and in Darke County, 322 Fair St., Greenville, phone, (937) 548-7233.
The executive director of SafeHaven is Douglas Metcalfe.
The organization receives support from Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services, Piqua Area United Way, Darke County United Way, Shelby County United Way, the United Way of Troy and additional grants and donors.
Reach the writer at (937) 538-4822.