Single mother Jaimie Smith appreciates the small things these days. As she sits playing with her daughters beneath a bunk bed, their laughter rings out.
That's because where she is now is a far cry from just a one week earlier. Smith, which is not her real last name, became homeless following a violent relationship. She bounced around the streets and shelters with her three daughters, finally finding a place to stay with a family friend. But she says at the time, she felt helpless.
"I can sleep anywhere, but how do I explain to my kids why they're losing their toys, their cat, their home," said Smith.
But, a chance encounter at Metropolitan Ministries in Pasco County changed her life.
"God had me at the right place at the right time," said Smith. "He had the reverend standing behind me, I couldn't find a soul, I couldn't find anyone, and I turn around and there he is standing there."
"We have twelve units on this side," said Reverend Dan Campbell, pointing at the newly-constructed apartment facility.
The county's new transitional housing shelter opened last week, accepting five families into the program. More than 700 have applied so far, and while it's a facility meant to aid families in getting back on their feet, the resources don't come without strings.
"We're going to invest a lot in these families, and we're not going to do that unless they're serious about working," said Campbell. "But also, we're going to do a drug test to make sure they're clean."
He says the county has also broken ground on a second facility adjacent to the first. This will add an additional 12 apartment units. However, he says because these are the only transitional facilities of their kind in the area, many other families will have to wait their turn.
"We hope to have our clients out, on their feet and self-sustaining within six months," said Campbell.
A where there is a will, there is a way to hope. Just take it from Jaimie Smith.
"I felt hopeless for a while there," said Smith. "I now feel like I know I'm going to become a nurse, the RN I want to be, and I know I'm going to be able to maintain a stable home for my kids again."
For more information on Pasco County's new homeless shelter, or how you can help needy families in a variety of ways, visit the Metropolitan Ministries website at Metromin.org .