There is a lack of capacity in Marion County to effectively serve the growing issue of homelessness, especially to effectively address the needs of women with children. With all current shelter programs running at full occupancy, there are still many homeless adults and children who live in unsheltered places.
Homeless women face many dangerous situations and are at risk of violence and exploitation while living in unsheltered places. Children of homeless mothers often fall behind in school because of chronic absenteeism. They face other challenges like having clean clothes and dealing with food insecurity while trying to keep up with homework and studying for school. There are very few options for homeless women in Ocala. Some choose to live in their cars or temporarily in the spare rooms of friends.
We believe that to overcome homelessness, women and children need three things: a place to call home, supportive, caring staff members trained to deal with all forms of trauma in a professional and non-judgmental way- and control over decisions that affect their lives.
Project Hope believes that giving homeless women their own apartment for as long as they need it and focusing solely on the needs of mothers and children, supports a successful transition to self-sufficiency and independence. Recognizing the disempowerment caused by homelessness, we create a predictable environment that allows families to re-build a sense of efficacy and personal control over their lives. We are non-denominational and accept people of all backgrounds with no requirements for participation in faith-based services. Project Hope helps each family transition to stable housing through education, personal, and professional development training. We also provide employability skills training, independent living skills, healthy cooking, financial planning, professional case management counseling, and a community atmosphere with mutual support and social contact.
Project Hope is the only program in Marion County to focus solely on serving women with children. We estimate domestic violence is the cause of homelessness for at least 60 percent of the women we serve. Since its inception, Project Hope has transitioned more than 200 families into permanent housing and self-sufficiency. To date, twenty three of forty units are being utilized for program. We have created a sustainable model through generating a portion of our operating expenses through our retail apartment rentals. We have a very experienced and active Board of Directors who have developed fundraising and individual giving programs to support a portion of our cost.
Project Hope has evaluation systems in place to measure the effectiveness of its transitional and supportive housing model. Upon placement in our program, we collect information from families about their income levels, employment status, school attendance records of their children, and special needs of their children. We inquire about experiences of domestic violence, abandonment, drug use, and health needs of the mothers. During the exit interview, we collect information about changes in employment status, changes in income, academic participation and school success of children and other important tracking measurements. The success of our program is evident in our data collection and, also, in the stories and testimony of the families, themselves. Families often come back years later to tell us how important their stay at Project Hope was for their journey to self empowerment.