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Family Haven more than a shelter
Organization provides victims of violence with range of services
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Forsyth County News
At a glance
Family Haven's mission is “providing victims of violence and their families with a continuous availability of services to meet their needs and developing and presenting educational programs and activities to the community on the impact of domestic violence.”
* 24-hour hotline: (770) 887-1121
* Victim advocate: (770) 889-6384, Ext. 111
* Web site:
* Thrift store: 433 Canton Road in Cumming, (770) 844-0842
* Monetary contributions: May be mailed to Family Haven, P.O. Box 1160, Cumming, GA 30028.
* Mark the calendars: Family Haven’s seventh annual “Taste of Forsyth” is set for April 2009 at the Cumming Fairgrounds.

Family Haven, a nonprofit shelter for battered women and their children in Forsyth County, provides more than just shelter from the storm.

“It is Family Haven’s goal to provide victims of violence with trained advocates who can assist them in meeting their individualized needs,” said Shalon Coffey, executive director.

Family Haven offers many free services, including a 24-hour hotline, individual support, legal advocacy, crisis intervention and life skills courses. It also features public speaking and education programs, as well as a thrift store.

In an effort to help stop violence before it starts, Family Haven taught nearly 200 prevention-based “healthy vs. non-healthy relationship” courses to Forsyth County students this past school year.

In 2007, Family Haven sheltered close to 1,000 women and children at its Cumming facility and made more than 3,500 referrals to other helping agencies.

Volunteers have answered thousands of “calls for help” from the hotline, and legal advocates have written more than 300 temporary protection orders for men, women and children in need.

The staff and volunteers at Family Haven often take steps to help victims find permanent housing, and regularly offer financial and other assistance to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault as they transition into their new “violence-free” lives.

“We are continually searching for ways to improve all areas of support," Coffey said. "For instance, due to a lack of resources for adult victims of sexual assault here in the county, Family Haven has formed a partnership with Northside Hospital-Forsyth in an effort to ensure that victims receive adequate care and services.  

"We also hope to grow our shelter and transitional housing capacity so we can help an ever-increasing number of clients.”

Established in 1989, the philosophy behind Family Haven is grounded in the principle of empowering the individual and helping the victim of domestic violence regain much of what was lost – faith in one’s self.

To this end, Family Haven provides its residents with counseling and life skills classes.

These courses center on education, empowerment and self-sufficiency and include subjects like how to balance a checkbook, understanding credit and the basics of cooking. There also are classes on parenting skills, health and nutrition and budget workshops.

In addition to the temporary emergency shelter, Family Haven offers transitional housing, providing clients with additional time to rebuild their lives within a safety net as they recover from the effects of abuse.

A former client of the program said her stay at Family Haven was "one in a lifetime."

"First of all the staff were very helpful, caring, understanding," said the woman, who is not being identified because she's a victim of violence. "The groups at Family Haven taught me to be a better person, parent.

"I did not know how to budget, cook healthy, to love myself. Family Haven was not just a domestic violence shelter to me it was my chance to be the person I always wanted to be."

The former client said she and her children "have a togetherness today that we never had."

"Family Haven gave me that power and safety to get on my own again," she said. "I can’t thank Family Haven enough, so I will say again thank you again for my new life.”

Given the economic downturn, Family Haven has experienced increased volume in all areas of its service.  

As of this week, the shelter is at capacity, and the hotline is receiving more phone calls.  

The organization has also seen a growing customer base at its thrift store, which helps to generate funds for the agency’s operating budget.  

Unfortunately, the opposite is true for Family Haven’s monetary contributions.

A participating agency of the United Way of Forsyth County, Family Haven depends largely on donations from individuals, corporations and organizations.  

Its most pressing issue is raising money to fund construction of a new 8,000-square-foot shelter and a 3,000-square-foot transitional housing facility, which would allow the organization to house more victims of domestic violence.  

In addition, Family Haven is always in search of volunteers, as well as donations of items, such as canned and dry foods and snacks.  

It also accepts donations of cleaning supplies like mops and brooms, laundry detergent and disinfecting cleaners, garbage bags, mattress protectors, pillows and diapers (particularly large sizes, 5-6).  

The thrift store welcomes donations of "gently used" clothing, furniture, children’s toys, appliances and other household items. It can arrange to pick up donations of larger items.