There will always be Scrooges and innkeepers who wish to turn others away and would rather ignore the problem. But at One Hopeful Place, we will continue to face the perils of society head on and with spirit of Christmas in our hearts all year long.
In Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol, some kindly strangers approach the notorious Ebenezer Scrooge soliciting him for donations to help the poor. In the now famous encounter, Scrooge coldly declares, "Are there no prisons? No workhouses?"
"Many can't go there" the solicitor remarks, "and many would rather die."
"If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population!" Scrooge growled. He had a lot to learn about what it means to love his fellow man.
Mr. Dickens wrote these words over 150 years ago but they resonate with us still today. The plight of the poor amongst us has certainly changed with the times. How would Dickens write about today's struggles of the opioid crisis or the perils of those living on disability checks?
These hypotheticals are all too real for us at One Hopeful Place. Each day, we see individuals very much like the characters in A Christmas Carol. People trying to survive in a complicated world. One that doesn't seem to have an answer for what happens once an elderly Bob Cratchet dies and can no longer advocate for Tiny Tim with his mounting health issues.
And we certainly have our share of Scrooges too. Naysayers who would rather see the poor sent off to prison than see them in their own back yard.
Yet, each day, One Hopeful Place has watched as people make their way in through our door seeking refuge and finding hope. They arrive for a meal, a bed, a safe haven, but they find so much more than they expected. Compassion, love, and real solutions to the problems they are facing.
This year we've served over 100 people each month who find help through our day program. Providing them with food, clothing vouchers, laundry facilities, and a warm shower. So far in 2019 we've had 49 people stay with us at our full time residency program and now 50% of those clients are no longer living on the streets of Fort Walton. 33% of those were veterans who were finally able to find their way home. All the data is showing that we are within reach of ending veteran homelessness in Okaloosa County.
In order to better serve the community we made some major improvements thanks to our community partners. We've added on-site mental health care at the Hollingsworth Health Clinic powered by Bridgeway. We've completed a major renovation of the campus thanks to the City of Fort Walton. IMPACT 100 of Northwest Florida and FWB Medical Center have empowered us to build a state of the art kitchen that will serve both meals and job training. And just this month we were awarded a $500,000 grant by Bancorp South and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas to complete the Phase II building so we can add an additional 75 beds.
We continue to grow and expand and in 2020 we will finally be able to provide on-site physical health care and will also open a shelter facility for single women. Because we are also reminded this time of year that it's important to always have room at the inn, you never know who you might be sheltering for the night.
After all, the Christmas season was born out of humble beginnings, a simple manger being fit for a king.
There will always be Scrooges and innkeepers who wish to turn others away and would rather ignore the problem. But at One Hopeful Place, we will continue to face the perils of society head on and with spirit of Christmas in our hearts all year long. But don't forget, Scrooge has his moment of redemption. As Dickens tells us Ebenezer became, "as good a friend, as good an employer, and as good a man, as the good old city ever knew."
It has been a good year for the Community Solutions Board of Directors and at One Hopeful Place. So to all of those who have partnered with us all year long, to those who have given of their time and talents, and to all who have found their way home through our doors, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! And may God bless us, everyone.
The author, Nathan Monk, is Executive Director of One Hopeful Place.