“Someday, I want my kids to live in a house like this,” Michael said, looking around at the three-story renovated home for the first time.
Michael had just toured One Hope United’s new residential home, called Hope House, in Fort Lauderdale. He told house parents he had never stepped foot in a place like this before. Dancing around, he confidently stated he wants to do what’s right, so he can live somewhere like this when he grows up.
Before moving into Hope House, Michael faced many struggles. Michael is a dually involved teenager, which means he’s interacted with both the child welfare and juvenile detention systems in his young life. Dually involved young people often face a high level of difficulty obtaining a placement in foster care, significant barriers to achieving permanency and are at a higher risk for lengthy stays in detention facilities.
Hope House is uniquely positioned to serve young people aged 14-17 like Michael. The staff ratio at Hope House is 4:1, which means more individualized attention from house parents. In choosing a property, Sarah Tunning, Executive Director of OHU’s services in Florida, wanted to provide “a really nice home environment for the young men, first and foremost.”
One Hope United focuses on making sure the environment at Hope House is not only inclusive, but it sets youth up for success. For example, when a young person is placed at Hope House, they first go to a local retail store with one of their house parents, so they can choose the right hygiene products for their unique skin and hair needs. In other group home or foster care placements, these young men may have had to use whatever personal care products were on hand in the home, even if it irritated their skin or wasn’t right for their hair. Then, they go out to dinner with a house parent, where they discuss strategies that will help them grow and develop in the coming months.
After they settle into their new home, these young men focus on independent living skills like improving academic performance, getting a part-time job, and opening a savings account. “Our goal is that when these young men turn 18, they’re on a college or career path, and they’ve strengthened healthy relationships with their family members and mentors in the area,” Sarah shared.
Sarah has noticed strong connections forming already between the youth currently living at Hope House. Two of the young men living in the house, Matthew and Ben, developed a strong friendship in just a few weeks. When Matthew had a mental health episode and had to go to the hospital, Ben made sure to look after his things while he was gone.
“These are kids that are used to fighting for everything,” Sarah said. “We want them to feel they are safe here, and to know their house parents really care about them.”
To celebrate the holidays, the young men living at Hope House will enjoy a special meal prepared by their house dad who loves to cook. Then, they’ll play board games together in the living room, lit by their Christmas tree.
*names of the young men living at Hope House have been changed to protect privacy.