A little hole in the wall on 1st Street filled with colorful paintings and creative expression seeks to bring life to those struggling outside its canvas-clad walls.
Havenplace is a faith-based nonprofit dedicated to the outreach of youth and young adults in Cleveland. The organization provides a space to rest, play a game, paint a picture and share a meal for anyone in need.
Cofounder Brian Tallent explained that, at the outset of the organization in 1999, Havenplace was meant to be a coffee shop hangout for young teens, but as the volunteers discovered a different need in the community, this vision shifted.
“What we intended and what we wound up doing were almost two completely different things,” Tallent said. “The very first night we were open…the first person to come through our doors was so drunk he barely knew his name, and that kind of set the tone for everything to come. We got mostly the at-risk youth and young adults and the latchkey kids.”
As these people kept filtering in, Havenplace adapted to provide for their needs.
“We have moved from being more youth oriented to more young adult oriented, as the majority of the people who come in are actually homeless, so they come in seeking shelter to get out of the weather, something to eat—that kind of thing,” Tallent said.
Tallent noted that the goal of the organization is to express the love of Jesus both tangibly through provision of shelter and food and intangibly through the building of friendships.
Nichole Crane has been a volunteer at Havenplace for a little over a year, and she explained that this goal affects not only those coming in off the street, but the volunteers as well.
“I’ve seen a lot of the kids come in here and be impacted. They get really excited when you come over and ask them, ‘Hey, what have you been up to?’” Crane said. “But also, from a volunteer perspective, it’s been really…life-changing for me because I grew up…mostly sheltered from homeless environments, at-risk youth environments—that kind of thing, and it’s kind of opened my eyes to a lot of the needs going on in the real world.”
Crane added that, coming from a Baptist background where so many wanted to become overseas missionaries, coming to Havenplace has shown her the many ministry opportunities within her own community.
A Havenplace regular since 2015, Darion Miller said he has personally been impacted by the relationships he’s developed within the group, changing him for the better.
“People at Havenplace have something with me—like brothers and sisters,” Miller said. “I don’t call them my family for nothing.”
Miller is one of the many visitors who participate in the creative arts nights on Thursdays.
Tallent said his goal in introducing artistic activities nearly 15 years ago was to provide an outlet for self-expression and a kind of therapy. He said painting also gives people a sense of accomplishment that helps them realize their capabilities.
“They see somebody painting, and they’re like, ‘Oh, I can’t do that,’ and then you show them just a little bit, and then it’s like, ‘Oh, I did do that,’” Tallent said. “Then they start finding out that they can do more, and if they have even just the smallest sense of accomplishment in the littlest thing, that can encourage someone to try something else and to step outside of that very confining comfort zone.”
Tallent explained that art is not only self-healing, but it invites others into one’s internal dialogue. He said there are some telltale signs of one who allows their emotions to guide their paintbrush.
“They sit down with a blank canvas, and you can always tell. They get quiet, and they’re sitting there, and they’re working,” Tallent said. “You go over, and you ask, ‘So, what’s going on with that?’ and it leads to an opportunity to talk about what’s going on.”
Emory Wilson, another Havenplace visitor, said she has used painting as a form of therapy at Havenplace. She said it is helpful to spill her thoughts and emotions onto the canvas instead of keeping them inside, though sometimes it’s just for amusement.
“It depends on what I’m going through,” Wilson said. “Sometimes it’s just for fun. Some other times, it’s for me to get things off my chest.”
Wilson said she discovered Havenplace when she visited with her boyfriend. She explained that the meaningful relationships she’s built and the positive environment keeps her coming back even when her boyfriend is not with her.
“It’s a Christian-based place. Of course, God’s going to be here,” Wilson said. “God follows you everywhere if you’ve got him in your heart.”
Havenplace is located at 174 1st Street and is open Sunday from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Tuesday from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Thursday for creative arts from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Havenplace also offers service hours for Lee students.