If you are looking to buy a home, rent, or renew a lease in Broward County, it is likely you have suffered from sticker shock. It is no secret that Florida faces an ongoing housing affordability crisis.
However, today, Linda Taylor, the C.E.O of H.O.M.E.S. Inc. is brimming with joy.
“I am filled with gratitude because we just received an $800,000 grant to provide tenant based rental assistance for the City of Hollywood.” This grant funding will help to position the organization to better meet the ongoing need. H.O.M.E.S., Inc. stands for Housing Opportunities, Mortgage Assistance, & Effective Neighborhood Solutions, Incorporated. The organization was founded in 1998 by attorney Katharine Barry as a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide “quality community and economic development benefiting at-risk/disadvantaged lower income Broward County residents and neighborhoods.”
Since its inception in 1998, H.O.M.E.S. Inc has assisted in building homes, rehabilitated dilapidated houses, provided affordable rental units and provided safety, stability, education and opportunity to hundreds of families per year. In partnership with the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and with funding from Broward County and in collaboration with other nonprofits, H.O.M.E.S. Inc has rehabbed, purchased and sold over 175 homes to first-time homebuyers.
As impressive as facilitating home ownership is, the power of H.O.M.E.S. Inc lies in the day-to-day operations of the organization. The nine-member team runs a variety of programs which address the immediate needs of its clients while providing a strategic reach into their future. Linda Taylor, CEO, is a native of Fort Lauderdale. Having started out as an investment banker she found her way to H.O.M.E.S. Inc after having started a homeownership program at the Urban League of Broward County. Driven by her desire to help and to make a difference where she lives, Taylor found plenty of opportunity to make a difference by empowering those around her on their journey to achieving the American Dream. She sums up this passion that has driven her for the past seventeen years in one simple statement, “Nothing brings me more pleasure than being able to bring resources to my neighbors and friends.”
The Rapid Rehousing Program is one of these resources. It addresses the housing needs of the chronically homeless. H.O.M.E.S. Inc purchased a two-acre site near downtown Ft. Lauderdale, where 29 young people who aged out of Foster Care now live. Without this effort these youth would have found themselves homeless. Meanwhile the agency’s self-sufficiency program steps in to educate these same youth on financial literacy, how to keep their apartments clean, and how to live as informed citizens. The program provides rental rates of $300 per month, with a roommate and $400 for a single bed unit. H.O.M.E.S. Inc. prides itself on not ever increasing the rental rate since 2009. It further sets the youth up for success by assisting them with obtaining paid internships.
After sixteen weeks of internship the youth have an opportunity to be hired as permanent staff or at the very least to leave after having gained employable skills.
The Pathways Program focuses on LGBTQ members of the community, especially those who are homeless. These young people are often referred by the police department due to critical needs.
Miss Taylor explains, “Through this program residents can live with us for six months and save 30 percent of their income.” She emphasizes that all youth are required to save. Some residents in longer term housing have saved as much as $10,000 over time, helping them to build a foundation and begin preparation for living independently as they age out of the program. Many graduates of the program have had to move out of the area in search of affordable housing. However, Taylor underscores the strength of local partnerships that continue to provide hope for local residents.
Ms. Taylor points out that although their organization does its best to create affordable choices for its clients, the organization needs assistance to meet its needs. She adds,
“We charge below market rent, but our expenses are at market rate.”
H.O.M.E.S. Inc receives funding mostly from foundations, government agencies and a few donors. The Jim Moran Foundation, Community Foundation of Broward and Children Services Council of Broward are among top contributors. Government entities such as the City of Fort Lauderdale, City of Hollywood and Broward County are also key contributors, to name a few. Sororities like Alpha Kappa Alpha, along with businesses and individual volunteers provide crucial assistance. Other amazing partners include Women in Distress, the Urban League of Broward County led by CEO Dr. Germaine Smith-Baugh, Life Net4Families led by Dr. Melanie Geddes, along with Michael Obel of Community Connection and more. H.O.M.E.S. Inc also has a strategic alliance with Handyinc led by Kirk Brown. Ms. Taylor explains, “If I can’t meet the need, I can pick up the phone and call a partner agency.”
The secret weapon, she explains, is the clients themselves. She gives the story of a twenty-two-year-old young man as an example. He came into the program for a year, excelled in learning a trade and has returned to give back to the organization while convincing his employer to partner with H.O.M.E.S. Inc. Talk about a Win/Win!
It is important to note that folks in need of services cannot simply call or walk into the office of H.O.M.E.S. Inc. Anyone in need of services should contact 211 Broward who then refers them to the Broward County Continuum of Care to get the process started.
Providing services and locating funding is undoubtably a formidable task. Linda Taylor has been at the head of H.O.M.E.S. Inc since Katharine Barry passed the torch to her three years ago, making her the CEO. She describes the work as “Hard Work + Heart Work”. This emotional work often comes with families in crisis. She points out, “You can’t put them on the shelf and wait till Monday.”
How then does she manage the overwhelming need in light of an affordability crisis?
“My weapon of choice is prayer. I can’t do this without being prayed up. I am in constant conversation with God, asking Him to open doors and provide direction. This is His work and I know He will make the provision. And in Broward we have some amazing partners.”
If you would like to support this amazing organization, feel free to contact Linda Taylor at (954) 563-5454 or visit H.O.M.E.S. Inc at www.homesfl.org to make a donation.
Be sure to mark your calendar for the H.O.M.E.S. Inc annual fundraiser on March 9th. 2024.