South Florida is one of the most beautiful, yet broken places in our nation. In one sense, we live in paradise as we daily enjoy what others pay to experience. In another sense, South Florida takes everything that is broken about our world and puts it on a giant billboard for all to see. One painful example of our community’s brokenness is homelessness.
According to the most recent count reported by the Florida Council on Homelessness, the South Florida, tri-county area reported 9,726 men, women and children who are homeless. In Broward County alone, over 150 families are on the homeless helpline waiting list, seeking shelter. 10-15 of these families are reporting sleeping in their car or on the street with their children each and every night. However daunting these realities may seem, we believe there is hope.
HOPE South Florida – impacting lives
Providing stable, restorative housing programs for families and individuals facing homelessness in our community is one of the three main tenants of HOPE South Florida. At its core, HOPE South Florida firmly believes that families and individuals facing homelessness must have hope that tomorrow will be a bit better than today. Housing — a more stable place for these families to call home — is vital to their success. Most importantly, restorative community; a supportive and positive network for each family to reestablish meaningful, relationships within HOPE’s church network.
HOPE South Florida is the answer to God’s call to serve the homeless and hurting in our community. As everyday church members put their time, talents and resources into action, we have been able to turn stories of hopelessness into stories of hope.
Shonta’s story of HOPE
Meet Shonta Taylor. “I hate the word ‘homeless.’ When you hear the word ‘homeless,’ images and stereotypes come to mind that just don’t describe who I am. I am not defined by homelessness,” shares Shonta.
Shonta’s life changed when she had her first child at the age of 18. She struggled to learn what motherhood meant while still trying to find out who she was as an individual. Shonta started attending vocational school and soon became a Certified Dental Assistant. But while her career was starting to come into focus, her relationship with her children’s father turned unhealthy and began to stunt her growth as an individual. She finally realized the best option for her and her children was separation. She worked hard to meet her family’s needs, but suddenly lost her job, exhausted her social resources, and eventually found herself homeless and in need of support. It was then that Shonta found HOPE South Florida’s LiveHOPE program and her story of hope began.
In the 2 years that Shonta has been a part of HOPE South Florida’s programs, she has experienced a roller coaster of emotions. Beginning with finding crisis housing through HOPE’s network of church-based crisis shelters, Shonta quickly transitioned into the ministry’s Shepherds Way Family Shelter. With the help of the case management team, Shonta began to look at her life from a new angle and started to face some of her real issues. She engaged with the other families on the property and started creating new relationships that would help rebuild her trust. She attended the weekly meetings where she could openly discuss some of her parenting concerns and share her learning experiences with others.
In addition to the personal progress Shonta was making, she had also found employment and was starting to make long-term plans for her family. She was soon ready to take another step toward her independence, moving from the Shepherd’s Way Family Shelter to the Rio House program in October 2012.
Shonta learned early in the program that the first step in helping her reach self-sustainability was to get a job, which she quickly did. But now she was at a point where she wanted to return to her dental career. She began working on her resume and brushing up on her skills. She received assistance from many areas (friends, community resources, HSF case management team, HSF church partners, etc.), all trying to help her find a way to return to her passion. All the while, Shonta continued to work long and irregular hours as a customer service representative at a local retail store and, of course, being a full-time mom. Her determination paid off 4 months later, when she received three different job offers from places she had contacted weeks earlier. She is now very happily employed as a full-time Dental Assistant and proud to have set a positive example for her children. She continues setting goals for her future and we are sure that she will meet them all!
Shonta shares, “When I first entered into HOPE South Florida’s LiveHOPE programs, I found myself being so depressed that I was ready to give up, and even considered turning my children over to the state. Through my time here, my faith has grown and I have found not only the space, but the community to process through my pain. My future as a person, and as a mother is bright. Before this program, HOPE meant surviving; now as I look to graduate, HOPE means happiness, stability and the excitement of a better life! I’m not the same person I used to be.”
HOPE South Florida is waging a strong offensive against the problem of homelessness in our local community. To find out how you can become involved in the fight, visit hopesouthflorida.org.