Updated July 14, 2022 - 7:03 pm
Starting this week, people across the valley can “Sip for Survivors” with SafeNest’s new program for shelter residents, SafeNest Coffee.
Since 1977, SafeNest has been providing domestic and sexual abuse survivors with a safe place to live through its shelter. Now, residents can begin to gain financial independence and can build a cushion for when they leave the shelter through the SafeNest Coffee program.
Residents can work up to 100 hours and earn $15 per hour — $1,500 in total — by working for the coffee program. All coffee is packaged and labeled through a private label supplier based in Las Vegas.
“$1,500 is, that’s a month of rent,” said Liz Ortenburger, CEO of SafeNest. “So, if something horrible happens and you can’t pay rent for a month, you’ve got a financial cushion.”
According to Ortenburger, such a cushion has proven to help keep survivors out of poverty and off the streets.
“When folks have financial cushions like this, they stay employed,” said Ortenburger. “An unforeseen expense in my life. It’s not then the next step is homelessness. I have a cushion. So, this really allows us to provide survivors with that cushion so that they can thrive outside of the shelter environment.”
Inside SafeNest’s main office on Thursday, two women were packing orders of coffee.
Small purple boxes are filled with two coffee bags labelled “Independence” and “Confidence,” as well as a small note by the person who packed the order.
Only Tyresha and Charmaine, who did not want their last names used, work for the program, but SafeNest hopes to employ about 15 people. Both women handle all aspects of fulfillment — customer service, folding and packing boxes, printing shipping labels, marketing and sales.
Tyresha has been a resident of SafeNest since April and works at SafeNest Coffee to help support her two children.
“I want to make sure my kids have a stable place and a stable home,” said Tyresha. “I don’t have to worry about, you know, going to go find people to give them a roof. I want to be able to provide that for them as a mother.”
The experience of SafeNest and SafeNest Coffee has given her the opportunity to gain workplace knowledge and get her started on the path to something bigger.
“SafeNest is hope,” said Tyresha. “If you’re going through struggles and you feel like there was no one there — there is.”
Charmaine, who has been at the shelter since March, is also working to support her children.
“I’m able to do for myself and I don’t have to rely on anybody else,” said Charmaine. “I’m able to show my kids that there is a way that I can do it.”
For Charmaine, the cushion SafeNest is providing means “everything” to her.
“Working with SafeNest has been amazing,” she said. “Now, with SafeNest Coffee, they’re also giving me an opportunity to work towards my own goals and be financially stable.”
Joy Hoover, SafeNest Coffee consultant, helps coach and train the women on how to fulfill the orders.
“Working a job and earning your own income provides just a sense right of competence and independence, truly,” said Hoover. “There’s no one that is more brave, courageous or strong than our survivors.”
SafeNest Coffee allows residents to continue staying at the shelter while they work and provides them free childcare, according to Hoover.
“I’ve seen in the excitement of the residents that maybe feel like they’re not ready to leave the property … that they can actually work right there,” said Hoover. “They literally can walk from where they live right across to the other house and be able to use those skills, earn $15 an hour, have that cushion.”
New revenue stream
For more than 20 years, SafeNest’s main form of employment and revenue was through used goods from community members. At the beginning of 2022, SafeNest executives decided it was time to create a new stream.
“We sort of landed on coffee as a fantastic opportunity that met all the needs that we had,” said Ortenburger. “It’s something that everybody drinks … and it’s a space that doesn’t have any other nonprofit competition.”
Consumers can help fund a better life for a survivor by purchasing a package of two bags of coffee for $45 or subscribe for $40 a month.
“Every time we get another 100, 150 monthly subscriptions, it allows us to add another survivor into the workforce,” said Ortenburger.
The workspace is filled with cubicles and phones for residents to take customer calls and handle marketing. Orders are fulfilled once a week, and shipments are every two weeks on Thursdays and Fridays. The first round of orders will be sent July 15.
“It’s literally our conference room with tables set up and a little printer and we’re packaging the coffee,” said Ortenburger. “We put little notes in there and they get packaged for shipping and away they go.”
For people seeking help in a situation of domestic and sexual violence, contact SafeNest’s hotline at 702-646-4981.