Today we’d like to introduce you to Kristyn Stillwell.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Kristyn. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Since I was 16, I have either worked or volunteered for non-profits. Spent a lifetime of being connected to people less fortunate. In 1999 my husband and I set out to figure out in the materialistic world we live in we wanted to see how to stay humble in such a blessed place. I stumbled across the book by Bruce Wilkerson “A Life God Rewards” In this book Bruce points out that when you serve someone who cannot serve you back then that is the life that God rewards. For us it is a place where we can stay humbled in a life with many material blessings. After moving to Houston where we could not find a place to serve the less fortunate, we decided to make up 50 plates of food for Thanksgiving and hand them out to the people holding up the signs on the street corners. We continued this practice each year and began to save up some money to do it more often. Then one day I handed a man a plate of food and he said, “God Bless You.” I went back to the care shaken and crying. My world would never be the same. My husband asked me what was wrong. I said I fed that man in that spot two years ago and I do not even know his name. Long series of praying and searching we found four families interested in feeding the people along one stretch of highway and we began to feed every Sat. As a result of the consistency of being there every week we began to form relationships build on trust and respect. They started out asking for Tennis Shoes and T-shirts because of the trust they had they began to ask for help with ID’s, connecting them with family, even mental health issues and addiction. This led us to helping 70 people get off the streets over five years on the side of our work, families, and other activities. Even today 45 of those original people are still off the streets. We grew from four families to four churches. It now consists of 13 different organizations that have over 1000 volunteers and serve 2000 meals a year. Friends began to ask what would happen if we did this full time. My answer was always it would be dirty, smelly, hot and I would not have a paycheck. So, I did what every other entrepreneur would do I write a business plan for a business that I did not want to start. I brought it to a successful businessman to see what he thought. He said, “Yes Let’s do this.”
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
There have been many struggles along the way, but God has always been faithful to send help right when we need it. When we first started, we were transporting people in our cars. My car got rear ended leave the detox center then a seat belt got busted by throwing a wheelchair for a client in my back seat. We realized really quick we needed to purchase a vehicle, but we only had $300 in the bank account for the Non-profit. In fact, we were still waiting on our non-profit status so we did not want to go out and fundraise in case something happened, and we could not get the 501(c)3 status. I got a call from a Lt from the local Sheriff’s Dept. and they were starting a new Homeless Outreach Team and had heard about my work and they wanted to see if we could partner together. I went to meet their team funny it was at the same intersection where I fed George the man that had said “God Bless You” 6 years before. When I got there, I was staring at a brand-new Ford Transit van and 2 amazing deputies who said our job is to transport Homeless People can you help? For the next seven mos. we worked together four days a week transporting homeless people and we successfully got 93 people off the streets with only four of them returning to the streets. Then they got a new Sherriff and their focus changed and we began to hire staff to work together. Driven to Care bought us a van and now our teams hit the streets at least three days a week.
We’d love to hear more about the organization.
H.O.P.E. Haven’s current programs and future goals: We are moving people from crisis to lifelong self-sufficiency. We help the homeless and marginalized people in our community navigate through the services available to become self-supporting contributing members of our community.
Outreach: Our Hope navigators go out into the community and partner with over 13 different organization and churches that also do outreach. The goal is to connect and build relationship with the folks living in place not meant for habitation. We meet them right at their place of need for the purpose of building a relationship build on trust. Using that relationship, we help them uncover the barriers keeping them stuck in poverty and bad living environments and then begin to help them walk a path out toward self-sufficiency.
Transition Program: We help them with medical services and medicine to help them get to a healthy state both physically and mentally. We then help them overcome any obstacles or addictions they have hindering their success. Next Step of Hope Program: We then help them find appropriate and safe housing and a support team.
Success Program: Then we have them enter our success community where they receive ongoing life skills training and lifelong mentoring. Our Goal is to make a difference in our community by: Offering those homeless and on the verge of becoming homeless some life skills and training so they can stay housed and never end up homeless. For those in homeless individuals we want to help them get on their feet and to a stable living situation. Overcoming the barriers that have kept them stuck in severe poverty and cannot become self-sufficient.
Our Future: We are building the Transformation Station with a Transitional Living component. This expansion of HOPE Haven will be to bring 25 public/private partner organizations together to help clients synergistically. While addressing all their barriers in one location and offering affordable housing while getting help. We are most proud of helping over 400 people get off the streets with only seven returning to the streets with a ridiculously small staff and small budget in five years.
The thing that sets us apart is that we are willing to get messy with our clients and unpack their problems in a holistic manner. The difficult part is that we get to know them and love them, and it hurts when they make bad choices. We have lost 17 clients to death in five years and when you are close to them it feels like we have lost a family member.
What were you like growing up?
I love to say I grew up in the Cleaver family and I was the Beave. My mom stayed home, and my dad even carried the same lunch box as Ward Cleaver. I was always curious about how things worked so I would take things apart. I love puzzles and writing software to make things easier. We grew up very sheltered and drug to church every time the doors were open. I had a love for learning and Jesus at a young age. I participated in dancing, sports, band, and academic teams. I was slow to warm up to people and always a little bit different. I was very tenacious my parents would tell you I was the definition of a strong-willed child. Which sometimes made things very tumultuous.
- Cost of one homeless person to a community is $41,000 (Per HUD Sec)
- Permaneant Housing for a homeless person ($17,000 per the Houston Homeless Coalition)
- Cost to start the process $16 for an ID and $25 for Birth Certificate
- Address: 14511 Falling Creek #301
Houston TX 77014
- Website: www.hhaven.org
- Phone: 8322578790
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @HopeHavenHTX
- Facebook: HopeHavenHTX
- Twitter: @HopeHavenHTX
- Other: H.O.P.E. Haven