Photo: Denise Ritchie Ann and Allen Jones hosted a reception at their lovely John’s Island home, where supporters of the Hope for Families Center learned of recent developments at the nonprofit.
“Years ago, Wheatie Gibb had her birthday party at the center and we all took supplies for them,” said Ann Jones, recalling how she first got involved. “I thought it made so much sense; it was such a beautiful concept to get families on their feet.”
Dr. Bill Cooney, HFC board president, said that the organization enjoys financial security, a stable and dedicated staff, and great leadership under executive director Diana Grossi. Additionally, he said there is a high satisfaction rate among the families at the center, which provides job training and counseling on everything from finances to parenting.
“Once they go through the program, we move them into permanent housing,” said Cooney, adding that the recidivism rate for the 76 percent who complete the program is less than 5 percent.
Cooney announced that thanks to a generous donation by Wayne Hockmeyer, they have purchased a plot of land to the east of the center for future development. Another new initiative underway is the establishment of a literary center on campus thanks to a $250,000 contribution from a donor who wished to remain anonymous.
“So our children, and some of their parents, can learn to read in a place that is quiet with desks and computers,” said Cooney, adding that the Hill Group has offered to build the literacy center at cost. “The other part of that is the opportunity for volunteers to come out, if you’re interested in helping children learn to read.”
Adding that another donor has put forward a $100,000 matching grant, which has generated another $50,000 to date, Cooney said, “we’re really pleased that the community in Indian River has been so interested and involved in learning more about what happens with the homeless in our county.”
Grossi offered some statistics based on the annual point-in-time data collected by the state each January. On the Treasure Coast, 1,532 people were homeless; 45 percent were families with children. Based on studies, she said the average cost to taxpayers for just one homeless individual is $35,578 per year. She contrasted that to the $60 per day cost for a family at HFC, where families reside on average 90 days.
She said adults at the center must be able to work, pass background and drug checks and contribute productive hours to the center. Their children attend Vero Beach schools or day care and camps, when school is not in session. Once employed, residents put aside 75 percent of their net income toward future housing.
“They leave us with money in savings that they never had before,” said Grossi. “When they leave us, they are taxpaying citizens of our community. We receive no federal or state dollars; we rely on foundations grants and you. You are hope for these families.”
“It’s not easy coming to the shelter,” said board member Sue Scully, citing HFC’s necessary but stringent rules. “I’m proud of every single one who goes through our program and comes out ahead.”
For more information, visit hopeforfamiliescenter.org.