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Your Chicago: A Safe Haven

Neli Vasquez Rowland of A Safe Haven Foundation. (CBS)

Neli Vasquez Rowland of A Safe Haven Foundation. (CBS)

Rob Johnson Rob Johnson
Rob Johnson is the weekday anchor of the CBS 2 Chicago evening...
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CHICAGO (CBS)—It’s one-stop shopping for people in crisis.

For people who are dealing with homelessness or drug addiction, it is offering a second chance at life.

At A Safe Haven on the West Side, they are changing lives.

Those who’ve lost homes or succumbed to substance abuse, even ex-cons, come here for a roof over their heads, warm meals, and educational opportunities for them and their kids.

Neli Vasquez Rowland and her husband Brian began this journey nearly 20 years ago, after his battle with addiction. Both of them were in the financial industry; they had options where many others do not.

Neli tells the story of a woman who’d been a heroin addict for 36 years; amazingly, she’s now clean.

“She got everything — treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, she got education, life skills,” she says.

There are 180 employees here and a budget of $5 million, most coming from government grants. It has 400 beds, but those served here are expected to transition to one 600 affordable-housing apartments around Chicago and get a job.

Safe Haven helps. It owns seven companies that provide services such as landscaping and housekeeping. It also places former clients like Chris Loggins, who’s now a landscaper at Chicago City Hall.

“It makes me feel good about myself. It gives me the hope to continue to go on because I am completely self-supportive,” he says.

Jennifer Winston came here in January with a drug addiction after hearing about the program while she was behind bars in the Cook County Jail.

And they’ve gotten results. While the recidivism rate with ex-cons in Illinois is typically around 50 percent, for those coming out of Safe Haven it’s just 15 percent.

“It’s the most rewarding work in the world. I can’t explain the joy you feel every day coming into this place, the joy of knowing you are making a difference in someone’s life,” Vasquez Rowland says.