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Hope House in the works in Paris, Illinois

Hopes and Dreams in Paris, Illinois is looking to create a “Hope House”.

Posted: Mar 19, 2018 4:52 PM
Updated: Mar 19, 2018 6:25 PM

PARIS, Ill. (WTHI) - Homelessness is a problem in many communities.

But an organization called Hopes and Dreams in Paris, Illinois is looking to create a “Hope House”.

Austin Porter, a student helped by the Bridges Program and Hopes and Dreams, and Beth Hansel of the Regional Office of Education and Hopes and Dreams, talking at Austin's new apartment in Paris, Illinois. (WTHI Photo, Lacey Clifton)

Paris teen Austin Porter is one young man who’s been touched by the organization. He’s faced many challenges in his first 19 years of life.

Porter recalls, "When I had my first job, I was the one paying for the bills. Checks were only like $150, so we had to choose, ‘Do we want electricity this month or water this month?’"

Porter grew up in a home with several siblings, parents struggling with drug addiction, and a lack of basic necessities.

He says, "I wasn't going to school at all. I was pretty disrespectful back then."

But a major turning point for Porter was him joining the safe school program called Bridges.

Porter says, "First thing they did was get me to a place where I had necessities so I could focus on school and all that. After a while with a lot of effort from them, they molded me into somebody who wanted to work hard."

Porter and others in Bridges have been touched by Hopes and Dreams. Both programs aim to help students take control of their lives.

Regional Office of Education Attendance Specialist, Beth Hansel says, "We have about 10 students who we've put into apartment settings. So in that situation they have actually been able to pay their own rent while working and going to high school. So that's a lot of adult responsibilities in addition to trying to be a kid."

Hansel is affiliated with Hopes and Dreams, and wants to create a "hope house" and safe teen hangout. The goal is to help teens like Austin focus on school instead of trying to fulfill their basic needs.

Hansel says, "When you don't have a place to stay, you just feel unsafe. You feel unsecure. You feel like you don't mean anything. We would like to be able to provide a place for students who are 15, 16, 17, and going to school to be able to stay without having to work full time."

The "hope house" would be a 16-bed facility for teens, set up similar to a dorm. Hansel says they would also like to provide teens a place to get a shower, do laundry, and have homework help.

Organizers say they're close to securing their 501c3 charity status. They say that should open the door to a potential location for the shelter, and they would like to open with the year.

However, the organization says it needs volunteers and monetary donations to sustain the “Hope House”. The organization is looking to partner with individuals, churches, or other organizations.

Organizer Beth Hansel says the best way to reach out about volunteer or donation opportunities is messaging Hopes and Dreams on Facebook. You can find the organization’s page by clicking here.

If contact by phone is your only option, you can contact Beth at 217-251-5712.

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