President and CEO Kirk Ray Smith of Hope Villages of America (HVA), formerly RCS Pinellas, announced today, 12/3/20, that the nonprofit is ramping up fundraising efforts in the community to address a potential funding gap caused by the end of significant government funding. “We believe housing is a right, not a privilege,” said Smith. “To eradicate homelessness, it will take a Village.”
A government contract ending will impact their homeless family shelter, but the nonprofit vows not to let the shelter close.
After several years, the contract between the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County (JWB) and HVA will end on February 28, 2021. The end of the contract leaves Grace House with a potential funding shortfall, which Smith hopes the community can help meet. “We’re calling on individuals, groups, churches, business owners and corporations to join us in ensuring these vulnerable members of our community are protected and feel valued in these already unsettling days. We also want to say thank you to the City of Clearwater, City of Largo and City of St. Pete for their continued support of the Grace House.”
Each year six Grace House staff and numerous volunteers serve homeless individuals and families with care and compassion. “Homeless families are one of the fastest-growing demographics we serve,” Smith reported. “There are only 180 beds for homeless families in Pinellas County, which has a population of more than 1 million. Hope Villages provides nearly half of those beds, and Grace House offers dignified apartment-style emergency shelter to homeless families with children for up to three months. We touch more than 300 lives each year through Grace House—60 percent of whom are children.
“We certainly will not let the shelter close, pushing those families onto the streets—and neither will we lay off the Grace House case managers and other employees who serve them. All of these families need us now more than ever due to the pandemic.”
Food, clothing and household goods are available to residents, and Grace House staff work one-on-one with families, providing case management, education, job readiness and helping guests save money to secure stable housing. When it comes to changing lives and ending homelessness, Grace House is a resounding success: “We are proud that 90 percent of families who complete the program move to stable housing.”
“We’re grateful for our longstanding and very positive relationship with JWB. We knew the contract was coming to an end, and we’ve been planning and working for this. Government funding, in our eyes, is always mean to get a program off the ground but not for long-term support—that’s where we engage the community,” Smith said. “In fact, we’re pleased to announce that our longstanding community partner and major corporate donor Siracusa Staffing & Leasing have already committed significant financial support to meet this funding gap.”
But that’s just a small percent of the total annual Grace House operating budget of $700,000. “We still urgently need our neighbors’ help,” concluded Smith.
Learn how you can support homeless families on their journey from Grace House to self-sufficiency at rcspinellas.org.
About Hope Villages of America: Formerly RCS Pinellas (RCS), the organization established in 1967, is a registered 501(c)(3) organization that addresses the needs of the hungry, homeless and victims of domestic violence in Pinellas County. This mission is advanced through five distinct but integrated programs: The Food Bank, Basic Services, Affordable Housing, The Haven Domestic Violence Shelter and Grace House. These programs operate in more than 60,000 square feet of service space and serve more than 130,000 participants annually throughout Pinellas County. In 2019 RCS was awarded GuideStar’s Gold Seal of Transparency for the second year in a row and the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce Biggest Community Impact award. For more information, visit www.rcspinellas.org or call 727-584-3528.