By Suzanne Le Mignot

CHICAGO (CBS) — If you think you have been noticing more homeless people in the streets in Chicago lately, the co-founder of A Safe Haven says you’re right.

The 400 bed West Side facility on Roosevelt Road is nearly at capacity.

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Neli Vazquez Rowland said the one thing the pandemic did is recognize homelessness as a major public health concern.

“We have to treat it as an urgent humanitarian crisis, just like we’re treating the pandemic right now,” she said. “We need to have all hands on deck and realize that one homeless person is one too many. And the fact that we are seeing a trend with an increase in the number of people from all walks of life. You know, falling on hard times right now, needing a place to go. I’m just urging people to do their homework, get involved, and you know, please support the organization that are really doing the work.”

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Vazquez Rowland wrote a book called “Healing.” In it she profiles the lives of 12 people who got help from A Safe Haven. Each overcame homelessness and the opioid epidemic. Some had been homeless for as long as 30 years.

“I think the first step is we need to believe that it’s possible,” she said. “You cannot help but read this book and see that. The stories of people that were worst case scenarios you could ever imagine, people that were in and out of emergency rooms, in and out of prison, and in and out of living in the streets, today are all supporting themselves and their families, so we got to believe that this issue is solvable. And I think by reading this book, we were going to turn a lot of people into believers.”

Vazquez Rowland said 100% of the proceeds from the best selling book “Healing” go to A Safe Haven to benefit programs that help the homeless reclaim their lives.

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All of the people featured in the book had professional hair and makeup done for the photo shoot. Vazquez Rowland said that was her way of shattering the perception of homelessness.

Suzanne Le Mignot