Community Solutions, partnered with the Greater Ft. Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce recently broke ground on One Hopeful Place, a facility intended to aid the homeless in Okaloosa County. WUWF’s Danielle Freeman reports although the groundbreaking is just the beginning of several phases the center will go through before completion in 2016, the community is eager about its potential.
Community Solutions board member Lisa Jo Spencer set out to make a difference by helping the homeless seven years ago. One of the driving forces behind One Hopeful Place, she says a key step in getting the project underway was finding an affordable piece of land to house the one stop shop, “We’ve all known what we needed to do, what we wanted to do, but, finding the money, finding the proper place. But, everything takes money. And, there wasn’t any free land available. We were really blessed whenever Michael Beedie and John Hofstad and some of the others from the county government. And, the city government got involved and said we’re going to help too. And then, shortly thereafter when we looked at sites, the city said let us help.”
Located on Percy Coleman Road off the North Beal Extension, One Hopeful Place will serve as a cold night shelter; a transitional housing program, and a resource center operated by 90Works.
Public support for the project has been tremendous, and funding for the facility is ongoing. State Rep. Matt Gaetz helped secure state funding for the project and says the hallmark of any good community that’s growing and thriving can be measured by how they take care of those who are the most vulnerable, “Even though we live in a state where the economy is improving and more are doing better. Even though we live in a community with recordly low unemployment numbers, we still have people who need help. Who need just a safe place to be, an opportunity to rebound, to improve quality of life and to achieve their true and full potential for opportunity and prosperity. This will be that place.”
“Homelessness is usually a symptom of something else. It’s economic, it’s mental health, it’s substance abuse, it’s all of those things. I believe One hopeful Place is going to be a place where those causal factors can be addressed and therefore eliminate homelessness.”
Capt. Ken Lapee of the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office says the facility will be a great resource for law enforcement officers to refer to those needing it, “This gives law enforcement officers on the street another tool in our tool bag. That we can have some confidence in and say hey, I’ve got a place for you, a place that will reignite that fire of hope in your life.”
Also involved in the project is the Okaloosa-Walton Continuum of Care -- now called the Housing Homeless Alliance. Executive Director Sarah Yelverton says the new facility will make homelessness brief, rare, and nonrecurring in the community, “One Hopeful Place will be the place where those in need can come and access services, and shelter, and housing. But, also they can access a better life. We can truly lift up our most vulnerable citizens and impact the community by doing so.”
The next phase of the project involves constructing the cold night shelter and transitional housing, which is scheduled to be completed next June.