Hope Haven changing lives in Chatham

Pastor Morris Cuyler of New Beginnings Ministries which runs Chatham Hope Haven addresses a crowd of local church leaders at the Lunch with the Pastors event in Chatham. April 3, 2019. (Photo by Greg Higgins)

The men’s refuge centre in Chatham has been making a difference in the lives of those who stay there and there are success stories to prove it.

The Chatham Hope Haven held a “Lunch with the Pastors” event Wednesday and invited church leaders from across the municipality and other parts of southwest Ontario for a chili lunch. While the event was meant to thank church leaders for encouraging their parishioners to volunteer at the haven, it was also a chance to hear the stories from men who attended the facility.

Colin Shane found himself stranded outside the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance after an incident that left him unable to work.

“I was sitting on a bench outside the hospital. I just happened to Google shelters and I called,” Shane said. “They gave me a roof, fed me, and I was here for almost two months. I was able to get enough together to get myself a proper residence.”

Shane added he owes his life to the haven.

“I don’t know where I’d be if it wasn’t for this place,” Shane said. “I really and honestly don’t even want to think about that.”

It’s stories like Shane’s that make running the Chatham Hope Haven worth it according to Pastor Morris Cuyler, whose New Beginnings Ministries run the shelter.

“To see someone come in one way, all broken and down and out. Then we are able to give them a bed, showers, clothes and food and build up their self-esteem, give them a bit of hope and watch them leave this place then come back with a success story about how this place has made them become a better man. That is what brings us the most joy,” Cuyler said.

He added that it was very important to get all the local religious leaders together to show the haven’s appreciation for how they have contributed. He said it is a community effort to help these men in need out.

According to both Shane and Cuyler, it all comes down to the volunteers and both expressed their gratitude for those who help from two different ends of the spectrum.

“The volunteers and staff here welcome you with open arms and without prejudice,” Shane said. “I have become friends with a couple of the volunteers who actually helped me outside of this place. I don’t have any family here and very few friends so it’s really nice to come in and have a banter with some of the guys and help out when I can. It is astonishing and humbles you sometimes because it proves there are still good people out there who dedicate their time to people less fortunate and I think that is very admirable.”

Cuyler said the facility is always in need of more volunteers. He added the volunteers the haven has are used seven days a week. Cuyler urged anyone interested in volunteering to visit the facility’s website.