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Hope Community reopens renovated family building

The Big Bend Homeless Coalition reopened one of its Hope Community family buildings on Wednesday, giving six additional families a place to stay.
Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 7:09 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Big Bend Homeless Coalition reopened one of its Hope Community family buildings on Wednesday, giving six additional families a place to stay.

Hope Community helps families transition from homelessness to housing; the renovated building now has COVID safety features, including an improved air filtration system.

CEO Holly Bernardo says about 75 people sleep in the community each night on average. The renovation allows the non-profit to serve about 25 additional people.

“I tell people that I don’t say homeless. They’re not homeless while they’re here, this is their temporary home, and it’s just a transition,” Bernardo said.

The Big Bend Homeless Coalition provides assessments for children up to age five, connects families with childcare services, and works with Leon County Schools to minimize disruption for students, providing transportation for them to attend their school consistently.

“I could not raise kids without a village and we really serve to wrap our arms and be the village while they’re here with us,” Bernardo said.

Hope Community also has story time with volunteers, working to instill a love of reading in the children who live there.

The non-profit also provides case management for adults, including help obtaining IDs and employment opportunities.

One example is the RE-Fire Culinary program, an eight week program for citizens with felony convictions. Their participants provide food for residents of the Hope Community.

Public Defender Jessica Yeary says these kind of partnerships provide better outcomes.

“We need to treat people more than a conviction,” Yeary said. “Knowing that they have somewhere safe to be for them and their family, is the holistic and wraparound approach that we want to see in the criminal justice system.”

One former resident was a major part of the renovation.

Jacob Fryar lived in the Hope Community housing in 2013.

“I didn’t have a lot of options as far as places to stay, and I found this place, and I was so grateful for it,” Fryar said.

Years later, he’s paying it forward by renovating his former home.

“I think I spent close to 200 hours,” Fryar said.

Fryar had a message for current residents, saying it’s a starting point, not a destination.

“When I first got here, I didn’t have a lot of hope, but they did tell me consistently that it can get better and through a lot of hard work and a lot of help from some amazing people I was able to get my life together,” he said.

The renovated building can also serve as a quarantine space for a family; positive cases of COVID-19 will move off campus.

You can learn more about the work of the Big Bend Homeless Coalition, and how to get involved, here and here.

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