San Antonio has seen a decrease in the number of homeless individuals in recent months, with a clear leader breaking ground. Haven for Hope is a large, inclusive campus dedicated to helping the homeless community of Bexar County that has created a new way of combatting poverty. That is, an “extended shelter” where those struggling to find homes can stay for longer periods of time rather than being rushed into housing facilities.

William E. Greehey had the idea of starting Haven for Hope after seeing a story on the homeless on television. He stated, “What I saw was that all we were doing was recycling the homeless people that would go to jail, come out of jail, get sick, go to the emergency room, get treated, get back on the street. We weren’t doing anything to address the root cause of why these people were homeless.”

Soon after, Greehey, former CEO of Valero Energy, sought the help of his Texas neighbors and San Antonio lobbyists to raise enough money to start the foundation, which he successfully achieved when Haven for Hope opened in 2010. The campus’s immense size is often compared to that of a university, with 850 dorms spanning 23 acres.

The facility has on-site rehabilitation centers, psychiatric units, and a team of doctors and dentists all devoted to bettering the health and lives of the area’s homeless. Food and nutrition is regulated through over 60 nonprofit organizations located on campus, which also promote fitness and wellness through programs like jogging clubs, and several organized sports.

Perhaps the most unique feature of Haven for Hope is its “Courtyard.” This enormous open space was designed for residents who may not be ready to change their environments so drastically just yet. They have the option of sleeping in the open air (in a protected area) on a mattress, which is provided, and choose an area on the concrete to sleep. Though it may be considered unconventional by some, this transformative process has seen great success. Many residents who choose this approach eventually move into the facility’s dorms.

William Greehey funded the construction of Haven for Hope through mostly private investments gathered by himself. Federal dollars only made up 40% of the money given, and continuous funding is raised through an annual golf tournament the organization holds to promote donations and awareness.

Another aspect that separates this shelter from others is that they require residents be sober before they are placed in affordable housing; something that is shockingly not regulated in many homeless shelters across the country. Their goal is to rehabilitate their residents and help cure them of any diseases rather than place them in a home as quickly as possible.

Haven for Hope has set the bar for homeless shelters across the nation, and nothing quite like it exists in any other state. They are leading the way in the fight against poverty with a new approach that was constructed to actually help the homeless rather than place them in a house, allowing pre-existing issues to worsen. If you’d like to contribute to the cause, visit their donation page here.