Meet Neli Vazquez-Rowland

Social Entrepreneur, Impact Investor, Philanthropist, Speaker


Neli Vazquez-Rowland is the Co-Founder and President of A Safe Haven, an organization that achieves an unique balance between nonprofit and for-profit social business enterprises to create a vertically-integrated ecosystem that combats and works holistically to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. A guiding light for those on the journey of rebuilding their lives,  A Safe Haven has helped over 70,500 people rehabilitate and find a lifestyle of economic and social self-sufficiency.

A first-generation American, the young Neli Vazquez-Rowland, was a natural leader, becoming the first in her family to graduate from college. For 13 years, as an investment banker, Vazquez-Rowland lead several firms across the nation. It was during her time as an investment banker, Neli had to rise up to the challenging and emotionally-draining task of overcoming an issue of alcoholism in her family.


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Neli holds a variety of achievements which you can find conveniently on her Achievements page.

This incident fueled a strong belief in Neli that no family should have to suffer through an already-tragic situation and in 1994, she established A Safe Haven with her husband, Brian Rowland. An organization determined to join forces with the private and public sector to ensure an efficient and sustainable approach to battle poverty and homelessness, A Safe Haven was welcomed instantly by business, academia and public policy leaders for its innovative and ground-breaking approach to an issue that has long plagued economies.

Neli Vazquez-Rowland is determined to discuss her ideas to bring about change with anyone who shares a social or even cultural responsibility towards this agenda, from Board Members and C-Suite Executives, Sustainability Officers, Social Entrepreneurs and Institutional Investors to Affordable Housing and Senior Housing Investors, Program Fund Leaders, Academics and Religious Leaders to everyone in between. Everyone in position to help create new sources of funding and help find the root causes of homelessness, poverty and alcohol addiction to cause paradigm shift  towards a better future is welcomed warmly to join A Safe Haven’s mission.

Even though the ‘whys’ of the movement have been strikingly clear since its establishment in the early 90s, the ‘hows’  have been subject to many changes over the years. In her successful journey to create  effective and sustainable collaboration between private and public sector, Neli Vazquez-Rowland has earned several awards and accolades in recognition of her unique life-altering work.  “The Champion of Change” by the White House, “Humanitarian of the Year” by Illinois Secretary of State and “Chicagoan of the Year” by Chicago Magazine are just a few among the many prestigious titles Neli has earned over the years.













university of chicago



Neli has also appeared on many stages across the country including spots at Harvard University, Romney Public Policy Institute, Notre Dame, University of Chicago, Northwestern, Loyola University, Illinois Chamber of Commerce and many more.

For the “Latina Entrepreneur of the Year” recognized for her “Outstanding contribution to Humanity,” the journey has been paved with self-discovery and with each new personal achievement, Neli Vazquez-Rowland has helped A Safe Haven grow into the this evidence-based practice that proudly offers assessment driven services including: addiction treatment, job training and placement, supportive housing, education services any other individualized service needed to meet the unique needs of the individual. All services are offered either in house or through strategic partnerships to help a person find their own path and footing in life once again to sustainable self-sufficiency.

Today, A Safe Haven serves the Chicagoland area with over 39 locations and over 200 employees who help transition thousands of individuals each year back to sustainable self-sufficiency. The model is innovative and one-of-a-kind and is rooted in 20 years of experience with results that have been repeatable and scalable and it is Neli Vazquez-Rowland’s belief that A Safe Haven’s model and management team could be placed in any other high need community in the country and succeed.

When Neli isn’t on site for A Safe Haven in the Chicagoland area she is often speaking at public events, serving as a media subject matter expert or sitting as a panelist on many business, academic and government forums.  Through her exploits she has also been asked on to many local and national television news stations as well as has been featured in articles on the local, national and international level in prominent magazines highlighting her work. In her free time Neli enjoys running and she has participated in a number of triathlons and marathons. She lives with her husband and A Safe Haven co-founder Brian Rowland and is the proud mother of her two sons, Devin and Dylan.