Providing a place of healing and sanctuary for military veterans experiencing the aftereffects of war, Tampa Bay's Homeless Emergency Project recently celebrated the opening of a new housing development, HEP West Apartment Community.
As one of the largest providers of housing services for veterans in the area, HEP opened its new 3-acre, 32-apartment community with a focus on getting both male and female veterans "all the way home.'' HEP's target population includes 20- and 30-somethings returning back to the states from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Our mission is to provide homeless and very low income individuals and families with housing, food, clothing and the support services necessary to obtain self-sufficiency and improved quality of life,'' says HEP Director of Marketing Ashley Chango. "Our goal is to help people help themselves.''
Klar & Klar
of Clearwater acted as architect on the project and Bradley Construction
of Clearwater as general contractor. Funding for HEP West was made possible through a combination of government and private foundation grants, as well as private and corporate donors.
Rated four stars by Charity Navigator, the organization is located on an 8-acre campus in Clearwater's North Greenwood neighborhood and currently serves about 400 men, women and children on a daily basis.
In 2012, the local organization served 1,689 people, including 660 veterans, 63 families and 143 children, according to Chango.
"Our vision is to be the last shelter any individual, family or veteran ever has to enter,'' she says. "With an 87 percent success rate of HEP residents obtaining independent housing the community upon discharge of our program, we're well on our way.''
And the new West Community will aid HEP in making strides towards its goal.
Located in the heart of Clearwater, the community features 32 brand new 500-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment homes. Fully furnished, each unit includes a private bedroom, bath, central HVAC, storage and kitchen with new appliances.
The landscaped grounds encourage residents to relax, socialize and exercise in a tranquil, park-like setting featuring a 2,300-square-foot club house. A 24-hour security team will be featured on-site, as well as case managers and five full-time addiction and mental health counselors funded by a federal grant.
HEP also provides round-trip transportation to St. Pete's Bay Pines VA Medical Center.
"We're the only service agency of its kind,'' Chango says. "Our program is truly one-of-a-kind, and HEP West is just a part of the homeless population that we serve. We won't consider out work to be done until we can end homelessness for good.''
Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Ashley Chango, Homeless Emergency Project