Homer Thrift Thrives, relocates to bigger space

Safe kids, healthy families, peaceful communities – and bargain shopping. Homer Thrift strives to provide all those things, although not all are tangibly available off the shelf.

Like some other second-hand stores in the area, the Homer Thrift store accepts donations and proceeds from their sale benefit a local charity. In this case, the store has played an important role for South Peninsula Haven House over the past three years, aiding the nonprofit organization’s mission of serving women, children and families affected by domestic violence or sexual assault.

The store has been so successful that it needed to expand. That meant leaving its original site in a cabin at 3939 Lake St. and finding new digs. The new location is bigger and right next to the Homer Farmers Market on Ocean Drive. The regular hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays.

This Saturday the store celebrates its grand re-opening. The occasion gives Haven House a chance to reflect on how its work has evolved over the years.

Founded in 1984, Haven House serves the entire southern peninsula from Nanwalek to Ninilchik. It offers protection and support to women and children in distress. The urgent services include a crisis phone line and safe shelter, available every day around the clock. Its advocacy programs include legal aid, support groups and safety planning. It offers services in Russian as well as English, and can arrange translators for other languages.

The clientele includes children, women, men and transgender individuals dealing with abuse, stalking, sexual assault, homelessness or violence in an intimate relationship.

Haven House works with an array of agencies and organizations to facilitate services for families and children. These services include advocacy for child victims, a food program for children, loans of car seats, transitional housing, and preventive programs including outreach in the schools and counseling for men that courts send to batterer-intervention programs. Recently it has added assistance for homeless people.

Haven House allows clients to remain in charge of their own affairs and choices among options. Given the serious and personal nature of its work, it stresses safety and confidentiality.

Haven House Executive Director Jessica Lawmaster said that the store is more than a way to raise funds for the group. 

Finances are a big factor in violence and control. Often people cannot extricate themselves from dangerous situations until they achieve financial independence. But finding a job in this area, especially with no work experience, is difficult. Three clients at a time work part time in the store for 3- to 6-month training periods, alongside volunteers and the store coordinator. Since it opened, 21 clients have participated in the job training program there; most later moved on to secure long-term housing and employment. In a stressful situation, the store provides a positive spirit, she said.

“We’ve seen a lot of success and overcoming of trauma through this program,” Lawmaster said.

The volunteers, too, get a lot out of being there. An anonymous volunteer told Haven House: “I could never kick the not feeling good enough … I never loved myself. At least, not until I started volunteering at Homer Thrift. You showed me how to feel worth something. You always did little things that made me feel amazing. I believe it now. I believe I am worth something. I’m not only good enough; I’m exactly what I need to be. I’m me.”

The store is also a resource for other people and charities in the area that need items such as clothing or household goods, Lawmaster said.

Now that the store has expanded, Haven House is turning its attention to other priorities. It needs to expand its shelter space, too.

In 2014, it served more than 250 adult and 75 juvenile clients and provided 4,189 “bed nights” of shelter. It answered more than 300 calls on its crisis hotline, she reported.

Lawmaster said that the shelter has been over-capacity for the past 18 months, an unprecedented stretch of high demand. Haven House is in the early stage of exploring how to expand from its current 10 beds. She attributed the higher demand to increased public awareness of their resources and to continued economic weakness.

“We definitely need more space,” she said.

The organization relies on donations, either monetary or of items for the store, and also on volunteers. It needs helpers for diverse tasks ranging from helping in the store to gardening to child care to office work. It’s also hiring paid part-time shelter advocates.

For more information about Haven House, call 235-7712 or look online at www.havenhousealaska.org.

If you need help from Haven House, call the crisis line at 235-8943 or 1-800-478-7712. To report child abuse, call the Office of Children’s Services at 907-283-3136.

Shana Loshbaugh is a writer who lives on the southern Kenai Peninsula.

Homer Thrift



Grand opening of the relocated, expanded store



Saturday, July 18, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.



1067 Ocean Drive, in the former Alaska Training Room building, next to the Homer Farmers Market



The Homer Thrift store is affiliated with and helps fund South Peninsula Haven House



CRISIS LINE 235-8943 or 1-800-478-7712; office or volunteering information 235-7712 or online at www.havenhousealaska.org