By Mark Wachtler
November 21, 2015. Chicago. (ONN) The Chicago charity and social services entity called A Safe Haven is still being exposed by victims as a cash-grabbing scam that helps many people, but hurts many too. We at the Illinois Herald documented the horrors occurring inside the non-profit’s housing complexes last year when victims came to us for help. Now, one year later, decade-long employees are coming to us to expose the horrors once again.
Employees and residents alike are coming forward with horror stories from inside A Safe Haven in Chicago. Image courtesy of SocialEnterpriseChicago.org.
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It appears little has changed at A Safe Haven since our last report in June 2014 titled, ‘Complaints mount against A Safe Haven in Chicago’. That report was based on the experiences of a homeless military veteran and his wife who were violently attacked by residents, terrorized by staff, and lied to by the profit hungry charity’s sales reps. This follow-up report was sparked by a 14-year employee of the multi-location housing complex.
Former employee speaks
“I am very interested in sharing some other perspectives with your news reporter who wrote the article,” the former 14-year employee of A Safe Haven told the Illinois Herald recently, “I feel there is so much more behind those glass doors the world should know. The hard cold facts I read in the article are true. Now let me give you some more facts from behind the scenes.”
She goes on to say, “This article was not discussed with the employees. It was swept under the rug, as the article clearly says. A Safe Haven sweeps a lot under the rug. Your source on the article is so factual, but now if you are interested there is more to reveal. I was employed with this agency for 14 years until recently I was terminated for resisting the cause. I was one of those employees that your article mentioned as so called criminals, and ghetto and that is true. But there is another side to this story.”
The woman goes on to detail, “A Safe Haven hired me 14 years ago and sold me on the greater good of sharing my personal life story to many politicians, judges, donors, solely to obtain more funding. I thought I was opening the door to help others in my community by doing so. I had a criminal background, no college, and a single mother struggling to get my life in order for my children. I was coached in what I said to gain more dollars and they still practice this. It attracts the rich. Our street candor and experiences reached the clients as they said. We were constantly told we should be grateful that ASH hired us, because no one else would. They were awarded Second Chance dollars for doing so.”
The dark side
The recently-terminated employee describes how she and her co-workers were regularly forced to work more than 40 hours per week. But to avoid paying them, A Safe Haven classified the employees as salaried management, even though they had no management duties. She adds, “They have created a dog eat dog work environment and it is very hostile. They are also hurting many people and their families along the way.”
“They figure we made you and we will break you,” the former employee says of A Safe Haven, “ASH wrote some nasty lies about me in my termination and are trying to make me out a criminal and an unethical person after 14 years of sobriety, building my integrity, and obtaining my CADC and MISA I certifications. They are trying to harass, badger and intimidate me into backing off. I have a pretty good reputation I have built and will not allow the one-percenters to throw me away again. If I keep my mouth shut, then I am no better than they are.”
This woman may sound like a typical disgruntled employee, but she has an ace in her pocket in the form of secret recordings made by another employee. According to her, the fellow employee recorded a closed-door meeting he was forced to attend with management. At the meeting, A Safe Haven managers coerced him into giving false statements about the recently-fired woman to make it appear that her termination was justified.
Threats and intimidation
She describes the meeting saying, “He was threatened by HR to write the letter saying I allowed him to stay on the premises free of charge or they would have him arrested for trespassing and fire him. The young man is in fear of incarceration and he has a 1-year-old and cannot lose his job.”
After word of the scandal spread throughout the social services charity, a third employee handed the woman and former employee a secret recording. Reportedly, the employee recorded A Safe Haven staff threatening and terrorizing a resident, “for 42 minutes.” The former employee describes the episode by detailing how a facility manager is heard ordering staff to withhold food from the homeless man.
“A Hispanic male who does not speak English and felt the need to record his conversation because he knew they were not going to give him a fair shot reached out to me and gave me the recording,” she explains, “The recording shows some of the actual mistreatment the employees are capable of. It depicts their newly promoted Director and her little sidekick, badgering this man for 42 minutes or so.”
Seventeen months ago, we at the Illinois Herald documented the nightmare experience one veteran and his wife had inside the walls of A Safe Haven. In her discussions with us, the above former employee confirms the shocking allegations are all true.
The military veteran and his wife, new to Chicago thanks to the invitation and sales techniques of A Safe Haven, were horrified by their experience at the facility. After being forcibly separated from each other by what they describe as ‘prison guards’, and housed with hundreds of just-released violent criminals, the man’s wife was physically attacked and beaten in the middle of the night. This angry vet swears that not only did the staff at A Safe Haven refuse to notify authorities, they went out of their way to sweep the entire incident under the rug.
“Both the wife and I were told by employees about how A Safe Haven was a place of peace and quiet transition and a place that openly welcomed veterans with open arms,” the man recalled for us last year, “But this never happened. I will not ever stop until all of A Safe Haven has been exposed for the prison-like environment they provide. This place houses criminals alongside veterans alongside the homeless. They can never get the rules straight.”
The veteran goes on to describe his stay saying, “We got yelled at, abused horribly, treated like we were criminals, before ever realizing we were there just for a bed. We were not drug addicts, criminals, thieves or any of the like. But we were treated as such the entire stay.”
As we previously reported, even the Better Business Bureau has refused to award A Safe Haven with legitimate charity status. The BBB cites the fact that the Chicago non-profit spends 113% of donations on fundraising. Most charities spend as little as 10%, with the BBB’s threshold being 35%.
A Safe Haven has a $16 million annual budget with most of the money coming from taxpayers compliments of more than a dozen government agencies. The multi-location housing project provides many commendable services like drug treatment, employment training and emergency temporary housing. But as former residents and employees alike warn, the horrors and abuses are still being perpetrated upon society’s most helpless and defenseless. And as our whistleblower tells us, “It’s swept under the rug. A Safe Haven sweeps a lot under the rug.”
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