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Lake County Sentinel
A New Life in Two Months
Operation: 50 Beds is Restoring Hope and Renewing Lives
(PAINESVILLE, OH) – When Roserese Williams arrived at 25 Freedom Road in February, she didn’t know what to do.

Evicted from her home with her three teenaged children, Williams said by the time she reached
Families Moving Forward, she felt despair.

“I am bringing my kids into a shelter,” she recalled thinking, noting that even during the stay,
there were difficult moments. “My kids were in school, and they wouldn’t even catch the bus
because they didn’t want people to look and see that they were in the shelter. They saw other
kids that were homeless being made fun of and they didn’t want to experience that.”

However, the first night Williams felt something was different about this shelter, and it brought
tears to her eyes when she walked in.
“It was amazing,” she said. “It wasn’t like any shelter I have been in before. It was a very
positive atmosphere, and spiritual. I felt like I was at home. When I walked in through the doors,
God spoke to me. ‘Rest.’”

Providing rest and support to individuals and families experiencing homelessness has been the
sole objective of Project Hope for the Homeless since it began operating in 1993. In that time,

the shelter has served more than 5,000 individuals, and through the community’s support overthe last year, even more guests have found shelter, care and guidance.

The Operation 50 Beds campaign was launched one year ago to give Project Hope the funds
necessary to increase the shelter’s  capacity  from 35 to 50 beds. This was only second increase in the last 10 years; in 2007, Project Hope went from 25 to 35 beds, growth that Executive Director Judy Burr said was vital in the community.

“The calls being turned away for shelter more than tripled shortly after the economic downturn in
2008,” Burr said. “2­1­1, the service that takes the shelter reservations for the community, reported that those calls went from around 200 in 2006, to 800 in 2009, to more than 1,800 last
year. These calls were turned away due to lack of capacity or ‘no room at the inn.’”

Thanks to tremendous community support in 2014, Project Hope was able to add 5,200 square
feet to the existing shelter space, which gave the only emergency homeless shelter in Lake
County the physical ability to serve up to 70 individuals each night. However, staffing was
limited, and to better provide for a larger  population with greater barriers to success, additional trained employees were needed.
The employees, who were brought in under the Operation 50 Beds campaign, serve in both the
individual adult side of the shelter, Project Hope for the Homeless, and in the family wing, which
serves the parents and children staying at Families Moving Forward. Thanks to the expanded
shelter capacity, Williams and her children had a place to work toward a better future.

She said the program has helped her learn to make different decisions to care for her family.
“Families Moving Forward helped me with budgeting, seeing and realizing where I went wrong ­­ seeing it on paper and seeing what mattered the most,” Williams said. “I spent money getting my kids things, instead of spending it on things that were important.

“And also, it brought us together, because we were all in one room. We were in a big house
before, all off doing our own thing.”

On April 20, Williams and her children moved out of Families Moving Forward. She joins  the  growing number of former guests who have left the program for a better quality of life.  

Many opt to join the aftercare program, which gives ongoing referrals for support and care
to former guests, helping them with basic needs, and providing a listening, caring ear to help
them work through difficult situations that arise once they’ve left 25 Freedom Road.

Through July, 98 percent of the families who have stayed at Families Moving Forward
successfully left the program for a better housing option; at Project Hope, 86 percent of adult
guests have done the same.

“With the benchmark for success set at 50 percent of shelter guests leaving for a better situation,  whether that’s their own housing, a more comprehensive treatment facility, or shelter
with safe family and friends, we are elated by these numbers,” Burr said. “This is especially
significant when we factor in a 20 percent increase in both people served and units of service
provided over the same period last year. This is a reflection of our years of expertise, strong
partnerships, and God’s favor in the mission.”
These partnerships, with the Lubrizol Foundation, the Cleveland Foundation, Ohio Children’s
Fund, FirstMerit Foundation, along with many different area churches, businesses, families, and individuals, have made these new starts at life possible.

“We are so blessed to have such a strong tradition of philanthropy in northeast Ohio,” Burr said.
“Our development department has undergone some changes this year, and we are excited to
meet more people in the community, corporate, and charitable worlds who have a heart for
helping families and individuals experiencing homelessness.

“It only costs us $39.11 to give one person a night of support, basic needs, and safe shelter off
the streets ­­ and meeting the financial cost of providing this, especially for our families,
continues to be one of our most pressing needs. Now that we’ve expanded our capacity, we’ll
be working this year on planting and growing the seeds of sustainability, to help even more
neighbors.”

Neighbors like Williams, who said she found more than care for her children.

“The biggest thing we took is basically, simply, not to judge a book by its cover,” she said. “Not
to judge before you know the situation, and to have compassion on all walks of life. Even though
it’s almost unbearable to live or be in that situation, I was still able to have compassion.

Everyone there became like family. When I saw others in the streets, the library, the police
station, they were family. I thought, ‘There goes my family.’”

###

About Operation: 50 Beds: O​ peration: 50 Beds was a campaign launched in July 2015 to
expand the nightly capacity of Project Hope for the Homeless, following a successful capital
campaign that added 5,200 square feet to the existing shelter space at 25 Freedom Road. The
campaign’s goal of $125,000 raised funds to add additional staff members who ensure safety
and security for a greater number of guests. Because of such community support, Project Hope
was able to increase the beds from 35 to 50 in December 2015, with great success.

About Project Hope for the Homeless: St ​ arted in 1993, Project Hope for the Homeless is the
only emergency homeless shelter in Lake County. Under the direction of the Ecumenical Shelter
Network of Lake County, Inc., Project Hope operates with the mission of responding to the
human hurts and hopes of individuals in Lake County who are homeless by providing
emergency shelter, care, and guidance, in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ. The
shelter has a 50­bed capacity, with 35 for individual adults and 15 for families. All guests are
invited to participate in an optional aftercare program once they’ve left the shelter. Project Hope
is a United Way agency.

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POSTED 09/03/2016 18:3
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