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Lake County Haven turns around lives of homeless

Kathlyn Long speaks during  Lake County Haven’s recent fund-raising gal“A Havenly Night.”  |  Sun-Times Media

Kathlyn Long speaks during Lake County Haven’s recent fund-raising gala “A Havenly Night.” | Sun-Times Media

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Lake County Haven

Since it was founded May 19, 1992, the Haven has provided emergency shelter, housing and support services to about 750 homeless women and children in the Lake County area.

To celebrate 20 years of service to the community, the Haven will host an open house on Aug. 6 at the shelter in Libertyville. Persons who would like to attend the open house, or make a donation to the Haven can call (847) 680-1703 or visit

Updated: August 28, 2011 12:23AM

LIBERTYVILLE — Ten years ago, Kathlyn Long’s life was spiraling out of control. She was addicted to drugs and alcohol, jobless and homeless. Her daughter was living in foster care because she was unable to take care of her.

But Long has turned her life around, thanks in large part to Lake County Haven, a Libertyville-based organization that helps women get out of homelessness and rebuild their lives. Long has been sober for almost nine years, has her daughter back and has reconnected with her family, is working two jobs and recently received an associate degree from the College of Lake County.

“Since my sobriety, my life has been very fruitful. I’m very fortunate. I wouldn’t have been here today if I didn’t go to the Haven,” she said. “It’s just amazing where I was 10 years ago compared to where I am now.”

Long is one of many women who have been helped by Lake County Haven and gone on to lead successful and productive lives.

The Haven recently launched a yearlong celebration to mark its 20th anniversary, which will take place next May.

Laura Sabino, executive director, said the women they see in the program have fallen into homelessness for a variety of reasons. Some struggle with alcohol or drug abuse; others have been victims of domestic violence or early childhood trauma such as sexual abuse. Still others suffer from mental health issues. With the struggling economy, the issue of homelessness among women has become even a bigger issue, she said.

“When people are homeless, it’s generally the lowest point in their lives,” Sabino said. “Homelessness can lead to a downward spiral of more and more things going wrong.”

The Haven has an emergency group shelter in Libertyville for women who are working their way out of homelessness. The Haven also provides transitional housing for women and their children at rental or other units in town for about two years until the women can achieve independent living.

Long said she was accepted into the Haven in March 2003 after being assigned to drug court following an arrest in Kane County and going through a drug rehab program in Vernon Hills. Long spent three months in the shelter and nearly two years in the Haven’s transitional housing program in Libertyville.

Long said the Haven not only provided her with a home but also support and counseling to help overcome her years-long history of drug and alcohol abuse.

“They showed me I could do this without drugs and alcohol,” she said. “The Haven is always there when you’re doing something to better yourself.”

Long plans to attend Columbia College to get her bachelor’s degree. She works as a certified nurse’s assistant and is a substance abuse counselor for NICASA. This month, she will have been sober for nine years.

“I find her story very inspirational,” Sabino said. “I think her story is very indicative of stories of other women in the program that overcome enormous odds and are able to go and live safe and stable lives. People that would meet her at her current stage in life would never have known she was homeless. She’s happy, successful, healthy and back with her family.”

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