When families and veterans are facing homelessness, sometimes all they need is a little hope, someone to come alongside them and a hand up to get back on their feet. Since 1995, Hope South Florida, formerly The Shepherd’s Way, has been that beacon of hope, providing shared meals, a listening ear and access to crisis and rapid re-housing. In February they were able to open the Vision of Hope Family Center, a day respite center for families in a church building located at 1100 N. Andrews Ave. “Now homeless families no longer need to hang out in their cars all day with their children in the heat; they can come here and get breakfast, get lunch, get case management, employment services, whatever their needs are,” explained Dr. Ted Greer, executive director of Hope South Florida.
According to Broward County’s Point in Time Survey, there were about 2,300 homeless people in Broward on a given night in 2017; about 130 of those are families and 190 are veterans. Hope South Florida works collectively with over 50 local churches to provide a holistic response to homelessness with a focus on rapid re-housing. Through rapid re-housing, families and veterans receive short term rental assistance and support services to quickly end their homelessness and get them back in permanent housing. They also provide shared meals, mobile showers, crisis housing and family support teams.
The faith-based nonprofit ministry was started as The Shepherd’s Way by Veterinarian Dr. Fred Scarbrough on Thanksgiving Day, 1995, with no money, staff or formal plan. After encountering God at a time of crisis in his own life, Scarbrough said he kept returning to Matthew 25:40 in the scriptures: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Scarbrough began talking with homeless individuals as they lined up for meatloaf during Christ Church United Methodist’s Feeding Ministry at “Tent City” in Fort Lauderdale. He was moved with compassion when he saw a mother with a five-month-old baby girl who had no place to spend the night, no diapers and no baby food. Using rooms at various hotels, paid for by volunteers, The Shepherd’s Way began housing families.
Today Hope South Florida provides rapid re-housing, negotiating with landlords from the business community and congregations who are willing to partner with them. “Because of our grant funding from the County, United Way, family foundations, donors, we pay the first, last and security, giving our landlords that assurance they are going to be paid. We are not looking for anything free or reduced necessarily – unless God moves upon their hearts to do so – but we apply for the dollars because homeless families and veterans in their condition don’t have the means. They are not walking around with $5,000, and that’s the average move in cost. With Hope South Florida coming alongside that family or veteran, there is a trust factor there, so they take a chance. Depending on the grant, sometimes they can also get up to 70 or even 80 percent subsidy on their monthly rent while our team is working on helping them increase their income,” Greer explained.
A housing specialist coordinates with case managers to make that happen. If their income is not at a level where they would be able to sustain themselves, a jobs specialist assists the individual with resume development, mock interviews, clothing, and transportation.
By partnering with churches, Hope South Florida is also able to provided crisis housing as an emergency overnight shelter for those families who would otherwise be forced to sleep in their car or on the street. Working with 211 Broward, families are first screened and prioritized according to need. When shelters such as the Salvation Army or Broward Partnership are full, partner churches house families or veterans for a week at a time.
Some churches also provide Family Support Teams who stay in contact with these families for a year or more, developing a mentoring relationship with them, encouragement and practical assistance.
A strong church network and community volunteers has also helped Hope South Florida expand their shared meals program to seven days a week in January due to an $80,000 donation from the business community. Meals are hosted at a different local church each day where guests enjoy a meal along with time for devotion and prayers, and transportation is provided.
“Gregg Wallick, the owner of Best Roofing, provides the bus and we provide the driver,” said Greer. “That bus goes around town where homeless are congregated and brings them to wherever the meal site is for that given day then brings them back.”
Churches hosting the meals include St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, Vision of Hope Family Worship Center, Mount Olivet S.D.A. Church, New Mount Olive Baptist Church, Christ Community Church, Christ Church Pompano, and Fifth Avenue Temple Church of God. For a complete list of feed dates, times and locations, visit www.hopesouthflorida.org or call Pery Canan at 954-812-3882. Volunteers are welcome.
In addition to a warm meal, homeless individuals can also get a hot shower in Hope South Florida’s Mobile Shower Unit. “We bring that alongside our meal site,” said Greer. “Folks are able to get a hot shower, a change of clothes, which we provide as well, and a bag of toiletries.”
Over the years, Hope South Florida has provided hope to hundreds of families and veterans. Ramon, a veteran and single father, displays his testimony on a wall in the new facility. After leaving Georgia with his two young sons due to their mom’s substance abuse and mental health issues, he called 211 looking for daycare assistance and was referred to Hope South Florida’s Hope4Vets program. They helped him get a referral for childcare, placed them in the crisis housing program until an apartment was secured and even helped them with furniture. “I now have a permanent home; the boys are in school, and I can be the kind of father my boys can look up to,” said Ramon. “I discovered hope and a home, and you can too!”
To learn more about Hope South Florida and how you or your church can get involved, visit www.hopesouthflorida.org. If you are homeless, call the Homeless Helpline at 211 or 954-563-4357.