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Hope for the Homeless is Here with HOPE South Florida

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

How do you live, taste and teach hope? HOPE South Florida has an answer. By "providing hope for the homeless and hurting through services and partnerships with the Christian community," this nonprofit organization has assisted the needy for over 20 years. Powered by volunteers and fundraisers, this organization is continually growing.

The organization was founded by Fred Scarbrough. Known for his work healing animals as a local veterinarian, Scarbrough explains its beginnings as The Shepherd's Way: "In 1995, after many years of sitting in the pew every Sunday, God motivated me to action." Long-time Executive Director Robin Martin says, "From that day forward, helping homeless families and individuals has been his [Scarbrough's] mission, with a focus on staying 'God centered and servant oriented.'"

Loneliness, Scarbrough believed, is the one commonality of homeless people. Martin notes, "With this in mind, he grounded The Shepherd's Way on three principles: Homeless people need to know they matter to God; they need a new set of friends; and, like all of us, they need God at the center of their lives."

On Thanksgiving Day in 1995, The Shepherd's Way housed its first family- a mother, father and five-month-old baby needing shelter and food for the child. Soon more families were housed paid for by volunteers. From there an 11-unit apartment complex was transformed to become the organization's first homeless family shelter in 1996.

In 2010, The Shepherd's Way partnered with eight local churches to form HOPE South Florida. Martin describes the formation, "The idea was, and is, to work collectively to 'Build Hope, Build Housing and Build Community' as part of a holistic response to homelessness." These days, the organization also helps homeless with a safe place to stay until more mainstream shelters are available while providing needed community services for this diverse population. Getting on the bandwagon, businesses and individuals also provide assistance to aid the nonprofit's mission.

Today, HOPE South Florida's programs and services are twofold. A strong emphasis is placed on families and veterans in their LiveHOPE program. Martin tells us, "LiveHOPE proides creative housing solutions through crisis and Rapid Rehousing for those facing homelessness." This means 102 units of housing and 338 families helped annually. A network of churches and many volunteers keep TasteHOPE running by "providing shared meals for the homeless every week," continues Martin, which equates to over four shared weekly meals and over 31,850 annual meals.

Founder Scarbrough's life was transformed through his work with homeless in the organization he began. As he says, "I find it so difficult to explain to people how much better my life is today. One of my missions is to help others feel the same joy that I do every day."

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