A Force for Good

The issue of homelessness is getting plenty of negative attention in South Florida, but a group called H.O.M.E.S. Inc. is actually doing something about it. The acronym stands for Housing Opportunities, Mortgage Assistance & Effective Neighborhood Solutions Inc. It is not only helping those in need but playing a role in turning around Northeast 13th Street in Fort Lauderdale, where it is headquartered.

Since it was founded in 1998 by Katharine Barry, H.O.M.E.S. has built and rehabbed over 225 affordable homes for lower income families, assisted over 1,500 individuals with affordable rental opportunities and housed more than 200 young adults countywide who have aged out of foster care.

H.O.M.E.S. Inc. is one of four non-profit development partners that administer $28 million in federal funds to prevent neighborhood deterioration. More than 175 foreclosed houses have been purchased, renovated and resold to new qualified low-moderate income buyers.

H.O.M.E.S. has a scattered collection of multifamily units to rent for families that are below 80 percent of the median income in Broward, CEO Linda Taylor says.

H.O.M.E.S. Inc. Linda Taylor
Linda Taylor

Taylor joined the agency in 2007, became co-leader in 2017 and then the principal executive when Barry retired in 2021.Taylor credits Barry with advocating tirelessly by attending a lot of meetings and working with the city and the county.

H.O.M.E.S. moved into the neighborhood in 2006 and has a two-acre campus at the southwest corner of 13th Street and Dixie Highway.

The campus provides affordable commercial space to small businesses and nonprofits, hosts an artist collective and has a community garden.

Helping at-risk youth

Two holistic programs specifically address young adults with life coaches and therapy to help them move forward.

One program helps those ages 18 to 24 get their lives stabilized after they age out of foster care. They pay $300 a month if they share a two-bedroom apartment and $400 for a single-bedroom apartment.

The Pathways Program provides an emergency landing spot for up to six months for LGBTQ youth who are at risk of predatory situations. They are often referred to as H.O.M.E.S. by law enforcement. They don’t pay any rent, get help obtaining ID documents and get enrolled in educational programs. H.O.M.E.S. also has a paid internship program to help young adults gain work experience. It provides an employment coach and placement at local businesses, who know H.O.M.E.S. will provide support to ensure their young employees excel.

H.O.M.E.S. also helps young people with mental health challenges, Taylor says. “Our young adults have faced significant trauma in a short period of time.”

H.O.M.E.S. provides groceries, a life coach to help get medical insurance and a beautiful space where they can feel safe, she says. “Too often we find that they feel like they haven’t had a safe place to live.”

A neighborhood transformed

H.O.M.E.S. community efforts have helped turn 13th Street into a walkable neighborhood with restaurants, bars, a gym, pottery studio, coffee shop and attorney offices. Native Realty, which played a key role in the revitalization of Flagler Village, has several storefronts and other spaces available.

“When we moved here, many of the buildings on this street were boarded up. Crime was rampant,” Taylor says.

The H.O.M.E.S. staff used a buddy system when leaving work over safety concerns.

H.O.M.E.S. teamed with Florida Atlantic University to hold a community charette at Fort Lauderdale High School and invited four neighborhood associations.

One idea was that the neighborhood could become known for art. That’s reflected in a traffic circle roundabout next to H.O.M.E.S. that has 15-foot panels of art created by households in the neighborhood.

“I think people had an opportunity to come to our Campus and play with art and then see it installed and see their fingerprints on it. So, that just furthered the investment,” Taylor says.

H.O.M.E.S. Inc. Art

The city also redid the streetscape to add bicycle lanes, which further calmed the traffic between the FEC Railway tracks and Northeast Fourth Avenue.

There were also street festivals and a funky fun run where people dressed up in costumes. The neighborhood associations have teamed up to form the Central City Alliance.

It’s taken 10 years to get this far, Taylor says, “but today it feels just like what the community said they wanted to become—a walkable, bikeable, thriving neighborhood where it is safe for people and their children to be outside.”

To learn more about H.O.M.E.S., please visit www.homesfl.org.

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