Haven shares early glimpse of new home in Pontiac

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published September 8, 2015


PONTIAC — Just as Haven of Oakland County wraps up its 40th year of service, the group is packing up and getting ready to move into its nearly completed new facility in Pontiac.

On Sept. 1, Haven — Oakland County’s leading advocate for the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault — gave members of the press a sneak peek at its new facility, which boasts more than 30,000 square feet of amenities to help Oakland County families in need. The building, which will house everything from a shelter to a career counseling center, will bring all of Haven’s services under one state-of-the-art roof.

The location was modeled after the San Diego Family Justice Center, which provides a central place to service victims in need. It’s been adopted by communities in 33 states and three countries, and that model has been proven to reduce homicides; increase victim safety, autonomy and empowerment; reduce victim anxiety and fear; and reduce recantation by victims, according to Haven’s research.

President and CEO Beth Morrison led the tour last week and described some of the features of the building, set to be completed before move-in this November. An organic garden, art- and play-therapy rooms, community engagement spaces, a crisis and support call center, a meditation garden, a playground, counseling spaces and a 16-room shelter are just some of the things already in place at the secure facility.

The location, just off Telegraph Road, was a strategic choice for its proximity to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and the circuit court for obtaining personal protection orders, as well as its accessibility to major freeways and bus routes. Morrison explained that Haven staff met with Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard on many occasions while planning the new facility to optimize the building’s safety.

“They know everything that’s going in here, and being just down the street from the Sherriff’s Office, we’ll get to benefit from some extra patrols,” she said.

To build the all-in-one center, Haven launched a $5 million capital campaign in 2010. Five years later, Director of Development and Capital Campaign Rachel Decker said the organization has raised about 90 percent of that goal.

“We’re not at $4.7 million, so to make up that extra $300,000, we’re looking to the community to help us,” she said. “Any (contribution), from $5 to $5,000, gets us closer.”

To that end, Haven has introduced a sponsorship wall that will go in the building’s largest space, the multipurpose room. The Plant Seeds of Hope Wall will bear a tree, and each leaf will have the name of a sponsor who donates between $250 and $5,000.

“It’s going to let the people who need help here know that there are community members who care about them,” said Decker.

That sentiment can mean so much to a family fleeing a domestic assault situation. Dr. Tracy Thompson is a licensed mental health therapist who has a doctorate of ministry. But at one time, she was on the other end of the helpline.

“I was, I guess, a client here. I’m a survivor of domestic violence, and one night I ended up in the hospital,” Thompson said. “A volunteer came up to see me at the hospital, and I was very touched and very moved. I held on to that and knew I wanted to give back.”

She explained that when she became a victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her former spouse, she wasn’t what she would characterize as a “textbook victim.” She was well-educated and from a good community, but she said she just ended up in a place where she needed help. Now she’s looking forward to being that same help for others in a new building that will serve nearly 30,000 residents each year.

“This is going to be a place that gives dignity, comfort and safety to victims,” she said.

For more information about Haven and its services, visit www.haven-oakland.org or call (877) 922-1274. The new Haven facility will be located at 801 Vangard Drive in Pontiac.