PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (Mar 8, 2021) – “Homelessness is a fight you can help us combat,” said Hope Villages of America President and CEO Kirk Ray Smith to a crowd assembled at nonprofit’s apartment-style family shelter, Grace House, in Clearwater on Friday, February 26.
Smith was supported by not only his own executive leadership team and entire staff but also a phalanx of Pinellas County civic and business leaders who recognize the value of the work nonprofit Hope Villages of America, formerly RCS Pinellas (HVA), does to address homelessness.
Taylor, a Grace House guest, shared her story of becoming homeless and how Hope Villages rescued her family. She shared that HVA made it possible for her to obtain her CNA certification and that she is now focused on earning her GED. She proudly reported that she and her family have successfully completed the Grace House program and would be settled in their new apartment in Pinellas Park by mid-March.
Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, Dave Siracusa of Siracusa Staffing and Leasing and Bob Childress, CEO of Solace Insurance, represented just three of Hope Villages’ many public and private partners at this community event. They shared their reasons for being deeply involved in this impactful work and challenged more community leaders and members as well as funders to support HVA’s work in homelessness and affordable housing.
“At Solace Insurance,” CEO Bob Childress shared, “we believe it is our duty to give back to our community. Homelessness can happen in a moment to anyone at any time, regardless of race, sex, or beliefs. Grace House has and continues to meet the needs of families who find themselves suddenly homeless, and it is our privilege to give our support in time, talent and treasure.”
Dave Siracusa of Siracusa Staffing and Leasing said, “We are so proud to support the amazing accomplishments of Grace House. Their vision and efforts to help the most vulnerable in our community are so essential. Our shared experience of who we are and what we can accomplish together in Pinellas would be so greatly diminished without the assistance that Grace House provides. We will always be there for Hope Villages, just as they are always there for our friends, family and neighbors.”
The global pandemic has created economic hardship for many in our community, and the need for safe, affordable—even free—housing is only growing. “Any kind of housing crisis impacts us all as it is a community health and safety issue,” said Smith. “The reality is: Housing is not a privilege; it’s a right. 2020 and 2021 have brought our community many challenges—and there are more to come as the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums come to an end. I’m so proud of the way our staff, board members, civic and business leaders and sponsors stepped up to stand with us, but there’s room—and an urgent need—at the table for so many more!”
Board Chair Seema Ramroop said, “If 2020 taught us anything, it is the value of life, the value of acting now. We never know when life can change for any of us, but we can always pay it forward. No one has ever become poor by giving of their time, talent or financial resources. As the need for affordable housing increases, we exhort our community to show its strength and resilient spirit by giving whatever you can to support those in need and help Hope Villages be the source of hope for many, the light when there is darkness.”
Smith also spoke of the nonprofit’s audacious plan to provide even more help and hope to the homeless and those at-risk of homelessness—including an expansion that will nearly double their affordable housing units—and issued a community call-to-action.
Each year, HVA serves hundreds of families by providing a spectrum of housing stability services that meet Pinellas County residents at their moment of need. “The Haven provides emergency shelter for domestic violence survivors—and a new start in life. Grace House provides 80—or one-half—of the family shelter beds in the County,” Smith explained, “and provides dignified apartment-style emergency shelter to homeless families with children for up to two months. Goldsmith Gardens offers an affordable housing option to our participants as a ‘next step’ in their journey to self-sufficiency. None of these programs would be here without the support of those who live here and give here.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Jennifer Dodd | firstname.lastname@example.org | 813-767-7895
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 three distinct but integrated programs: Food Distribution & Basic Needs, Homeless Prevention Project & Housing Stability and Abuse Services. 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 the nonprofit 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 hopevillagesofamerica.org or call 727-584-3528.