PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Hope Villages of America is expanding into the affordable housing market.
The Pinellas County nonprofit was recently forced to close its homeless shelter. Executive director Kirk Ray Smith announced that they would be transitioning the Grace House homeless shelter into an affordable housing campus. He said the nonprofit's same services would continue, just without a shelter element.
“I hope donations don’t go down, but I think government support is getting harder secure, to be honest, and they’re making it tough on us man; it’s not easy,” explained Kirk Ray Smith.
The reason for this transition stems from a decision in December of 2020 by the juvenile welfare board. They decided to terminate nearly half a million dollars in funding to Hope Villages to operate The Grace House, citing administrative and financial concerns. Smith said he still doesn't understand the decision and points to his organization’s record in helping the homeless progress back into society.
“Again, we’re talking about a 90% success rate, we didn’t agree with that decision, but we didn’t get a chance to defend it,” explained Smith.
The current apartments will become affordable housing units starting October first. There are 14 units adding to the 11 existing that Hope Villages of America already operates. However, Smith said the effects of this will be felt across the county.
“It’s going to happen because there isn’t many other places for homeless to go in Pinellas County. There are only 130 beds available to Pinellas County families, and we facilitate 80 of those, and that inventory will close,” said Smith.
The juvenile welfare board chose to award the funding to St. Vincent De Paul – another organization that operates shelters for the homeless in Pinellas County.