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Originally Published: The Westside Gazette By Dixie Ann Black

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.

 

Caring is one of the best gifts we can give! We are always grateful to see local businesses choosing to celebrate through giving.

Our friends at Frankl Kominsky Injury Lawyers, a Florida-based law firm, are celebrating their 13 years in business this year.

As a way to amplify their celebration, Frankl Kominsky Injury Lawyers have identified ‘13 Reasons to Give’ that would make a difference in their community. 

H.O.M.E.S. is thrilled to be one of the chosen partners, as the law firm’s “making housing affordable” Reason to Give.

We are excited to use this donation to help serve the needs of at-risk and disadvantaged lower-income Broward County residents and aged-out foster youth by providing affordable housing, a stable community setting, essential life skills, emergency help, and more.

Frankl Kominsky Injury Lawyers will be making donations to 12 other local non-profit organizations with amazing causes, across Palm Beach, Broward, and the Treasure Coast. The ‘Reasons to Give’ will range from supporting educational causes to fighting poverty to investing in a more sustainable future, and more. 

We wish Frankl Kominsky Injury Lawyers a happy anniversary and much success in the coming years. We are excited for them to be a part of our mission at H.O.M.E.S.

Learn more about the law firm and its ‘13 Reasons to Give’ celebration by visiting fklegal.com.

 

H.O.M.E.S. Past Fundraising Events

 

Halloween Spooktacular

A virtual Halloween celebratory fundraiser held on October 30th, 2020 via Zoom. Participants were encouraged to dress up for a live costume contest and also carving pumpkin contest. Attendees were entertained by Witch Kathy and Witch Linda as they took them down memory lane with movie and television clips from some of the most famous scenes in Halloween Film. A wicked sour specialty drink was created by the mixologists from Milk Money Bar and Grill. Over $38,000 was raised from the event. 

 

Farm to Table

Evening event celebrating the local chef from Milk Money held in the H.O.M.E.S. garden which was transformed into a country festival. Over 80 people attended the event featuring fins cuisine, a Super Bowl themed  raffle and dancing into the star filled night.  Over $85,000 was raised from the event.

 

Through The Looking Glass

Celebrating 10 years of our Youth Program, this luncheon was themed from the famous book. Hosted at Shooters in May, 2019. Hats were encouraged. The guests were entertained with a fashion show and speakers while dining on gourmet cuisine overlooking the intracoastal waters of Fort Lauderdale. Over $33,000 was raised from the afternoon event.

 

Golf Tournament

Through the years, H.O.M.E.S. has hosted several tournaments raising over $250,000.

20th Anniversary

On October 20th, 2018 the H.O.M.E.S. team transformed The Tower Club into a roaring 20's speakeasy and nightclub. Guest enjoyed cocktails and silent auction items while gazing down on Fort Lauderdale from the top of the tower. During a scandalous police raid, the guests were ushered into a grand ballroom for an evening of fine dining and dancing. Over $120,000 was raised from the event.

 

Fun Run

H.O.M.E.S. has hosted two Fun Runs, bringing the community together and raising funds for our charity.

 

Over the Rainbow

 In April, 2017, the staff of H.O.M.E.S. hosted a luncheon at the Fort Lauderdale Yacht Club. Themed in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, guests were entertained with special speakers during a gourmet lunch.  Over $42,000 was raised for the event.

 

 

H.O.M.E.S. SWEET HOMES

A nonprofit celebrating 20 years continues to provide far more than home ownership and rental opportunities for low-income families and aged-out foster children

BY KEVIN KAMINSKI / PHOTO BY EDUARDO SCHNEIDER

 

The light switch flipped for Katharine Barry more than two decades ago while taking a personality test as part of Leadership Broward. She’d been a member of the bar since 1980, but by the early 1990s she’d grown weary of her role as a commercial litigator. Her sister-in-law had just died of breast cancer at age 42. And something deep inside was gnawing at her.

Looking at the results of the test, Barry realized what it was."I was doing everything I hated and nothing I loved," she says.

What Barry loves, and what she has devoted her life to for the past 20 years, has had life-altering ripple effects for individuals and families in Broward County who, previously, had no sense of place, let alone a connection to their community. Thanks to the benevolent work of H.O.M.E.S. Inc., the nonprofit organization she started in 1998, some 225 single-family residences have been built or refurbished for first-time, low-income purchasers; more than 1,000 tenants facing economic struggles have moved into affordable rental units; and nearly 170 young adults have continued their education, received job coaching and found stable living conditions through a program that targets aged-out foster children.

Along the way, the ability of H.O.M.E.S. to engage other nonprofits and corporate partners has transformed once-blighted neighborhoods like the one that the organization’s CEO, Linda Taylor, grew up in—and, a few years ago, moved back into.

By 2006, Barry could no longer conduct the business of her nonprofit from inside her own house. "Contractors were coming over every morning for meetings; my husband finally said, ‘I can’t come out for coffee in my underwear anymore—it’s time for you to find an office,’" she says with a laugh.

Barry found a 2.3-acre parcel of land along Northeast 13th Street and Dixie Highway, now known as Central City, that would house the H.O.M.E.S. campus, along with affordable housing and rental units. At the time, businesses in that neighborhood were boarded up and buildings on the property were so dilapidated that the bank didn’t even count them as having value as part of the purchase.

"We used to have drug deals every day right in our parking lot," Barry recalls. "Linda and I would run outside and chase them off."

With little money for revitalization, Barry and Taylor and their volunteers slowly embarked on the holistic engagement that has become a hallmark of H.O.M.E.S. They painted the buildings that needed it. They cleaned trash on weekends. They hosted street parties and fun runs. And they brought together residents interested in a neighborhood makeover with leaders in the community who could help make that dream a reality.

Within five years, the neighborhood had an alliance of businesses, civic groups and residents (now called the Central City Alliance) and a community redevelopment area with the alliance, city and county. Businesses are moving back into the neighborhood. And, earlier this year, H.O.M.E.S. earned a Community Appearance Award for "Excellence in Urban Design" from the city of Fort Lauderdale for its "Unity Beacon Sculpture" in front of its office.

"You don’t go into a neighborhood telling people what they need. Or what to do," says Taylor, who worked at the Urban League of Broward County before joining H.O.M.E.S. 11 years ago. "That’s why a nonprofit is critical to neighborhoods; our role is a gentler, kinder way of bringing people together to create a plan. We’ve successfully done that here.

"It’s heartwarming to see the change. Now, people are riding their bikes and running at night. And they’re not running from the police."

"My theory has always been that if you see a little group of people always doing something positive and visible in the neighborhood, people start to think that it’s not so hopeless," Barry says. "Maybe something good can happen in the community."

The Youth Supportive Housing and Self-Sufficiency program that H.O.M.E.S. started in 2009 has done its own share of good, and then some, for aged-out foster children who, otherwise, would have been homeless. In addition to the combined 21 apartment bedrooms available for no more than $400 a month, tenants can take advantage of speakers and classes that provide everything from financial education to life coaching.

"It doesn’t hit you until you see it—a teen, on their 18th birthday, with their life’s possessions in a garbage bag," Taylor says. "A child who has been abandoned [or emotionally damaged] by the people who should nurture and care for them, they are filled with such anger, that it’s disabling. We have to make some allowances for that. So, we don’t just give second chances. We’ll give fifth and sixth chances because they have such a long road to recovery."

Barry is the first to credit the organization’s partners on various endeavors—among them, the Jim Moran Foundation; the Community Foundation and AutoNation, which assisted with the youth program; and the Moss construction management firm and the Florida Panthers, which are currently supporting an eight-home housing project in the Broward Municipal Services District. But she also knows this journey required a leap, one that, 20 years later, she’s proud to have taken.

"To see the people’s lives that we’ve touched, neighborhoods that we’ve helped to move forward, is very gratifying," Barry says. "Just to be able to do something you’re passionate about every day is a gift."

 

Larry Barszewski Sun Sentinel

Affordable housing is so hard to find in South Florida that Broward County is giving away 40 vacant lots so more working-class homes can be built.

The effort is the latest designed to create places to live for families being priced out of home ownership because of the region’s high real-estate prices.

A quarter of people living in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties spend more than half their income to pay for housing, creating a severe financial burden on them, a Harvard University report said last year. Nationally, only the Los Angeles area had a worse percentage.

“Even at the moderate income level, teachers and policemen are finding affordable housing a challenge,” said Ralph Stone, Broward’s housing finance director.

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