Haven House subject of documentary, wins CHS award
by Michele Longworth
Oct 03, 2012 | 1304 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Director Todd Lillethun, left, and his assistant, Shuling Young, center, review footage shot on Sept. 5 of Phyliss Thistlewood, director of Haven House Apartments for a documentary that will feature Haven House.
— Planet photo by Michele Longworth
Director Todd Lillethun, left, and his assistant, Shuling Young, center, review footage shot on Sept. 5 of Phyliss Thistlewood, director of Haven House Apartments for a documentary that will feature Haven House. — Planet photo by Michele Longworth
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For Gene "Bear" Safford, of Metropolis, supportive housing has literally saved her life and soon a new documentary will include footage from Haven House Apartments, and individuals will hear Safford speak candidly about being homeless and living on the streets multiple times.

Safford was one of three people from Metropolis' Haven House Apartments, to speak to Todd Lillethun, of Flicker Effects, a production company hired by Illinois Supportive Housing Providers Association (SHPA) to create a documentary featuring three of Illinois' supportive housing facilities. Those three facilities, according to SHPA, are outstanding examples of how supportive housing should be operated.

Lillethun and his assistant Shuling Young, were in Metropolis on Sept. 5 to film Safford, as well as Phyllis Thistlewood, Director of Haven House Apartments and Ruthie Johnson, senior case manager, for the documentary.

Safford, who is originally from North Carolina, came to Haven House Apartments in February 2010 and lived with her friend before later getting her own apartment. Prior to moving to Metropolis, Safford grew up in foster care in the 1970s. At that point in time, she says foster care did not teach her the life skills she needed to survive on her own.

In the summers she went to stay with her grandmother, where she did learn how to farm vegetables and tobacco.

Later in life Safford found herself without a job and with no place to stay. She says she would travel from state to state, hoping the economy would be better and that she could find a job. There were people in her life that would tell her she could stay with them, and after she had completed a variety of odd jobs, she would be asked to leave.

Forced to live on the streets she says she learned how to barter. If she had food, she would trade a sandwich for the use of a blanket for an hour. "God was looking out for me," she said, also saying, "I wasn't on the streets by choice. But I had no where to live."

Safford explained she did not even realize she had a mental illness until she was living at Haven House. She suffers from bi-polar disorder, paranoia and agoraphobia, which is a condition that causes the sufferer to become anxious in environments that are unfamiliar. Such triggers for the anxiety may include wide-open spaces, crowds or traveling.

According to Safford, when she first moved into Haven House with her friend, Have House staff members helped her get furniture and when Safford was ready to get an apartment on her own, the facility helped her to get furniture for her apartment as well.

She said since living there the quality of her life has improved greatly. "Compared to where I was, this is Heaven, because I was in Hell," she says.

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