Homes of second chances, give hope to the homeless

TAMPA - Wilbern Leonard was homeless.

He said he had no place to go.  He lived on the streets of Tampa for an entire year until he was introduced to the "Homes of Second Chances" initiative put together through the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

"When you're told that you are going to be put into a home and you keep telling yourself its not real, its not real, until you step through that door," says Leonard.  "I'm back in a home and I am back to being a human person."

This particular division of the sheriff's department finds dilapidated homes in the area and instead of letting them stand as possible hot beds for danger, they make them possible homes for those in need.  This, in fact, is the fourth home they have refurbished since the program's inception in December of 2011.

"We partner with organizations, like Home Depot Foundation," says Steven Donaldson, HCSO Deputy.  "They provide us with grant money to actually allow us to do the renovations on this home to make it liveable again."

And its the program that just keeps on giving.  Since they rely on donations from organizations like the Home Depot Foundation and ARC Air Conditioning, the program is at no cost to the taxpayer.

Leonard says he can't thank the organization enough for their help and in fact, he says despite his disability, which makes it hard for him to get around, he still tries to help in any way he can.

"My disabilities don't allow me to do much but pick up some paper, sweep up, everytime I sweep or do a little something I have to take a break because I'm not as winded as I used to be," says Leonard.  "I just thank God that all these people have come together to do something special.

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