More than one in three Mississippi children grow up in households under the federal poverty line, which is higher than any developed country in the world, according to rethinkms.org. With those statistics, organizations such as Doors of Hope Transition Ministries, at 924 Van Buren Ave. in Oxford, provides support and financial help to needy families.
Doors of Hope was founded in 2010 and developed through 2011. “Our mission is to help them get a job if they don’t have a job, which leads into work ethic,” said Volunteer Coordinator Michelle Reidy. “We also help them with buying healthy foods and help them learn how to conserve energy in their apartments. We supply housing for about 4-6 months.”
Families can stay in the rent-free apartments. However, they are required to set goals that include a plan to pay off debt, work, keep track of money spent and earned, and be good neighbors and housekeepers. Doors of Hope mainly focuses on families with children due to the effect poverty can have on children.
“We started with volunteer Oxford to form a donation drive, and we do that monthly,” Reidy said. “This gives people a chance to get to know us because we stand out there and pass out flyers and sort of explain what we need for the clients. These items are usually household items, so they don’t have to purchase them. We just kind of educate the public about the homeless problem in Oxford and Lafayette County.”
The Self-Sufficiency Transitional Empowerment Program is a program within Doors of Hope. The focus of STEP is to strengthen the family dynamic spiritually, emotionally and physically. This allows members to learn how to take care of themselves and their finances.
Families with minor children are the primary target. The program provides a loving, supportive, and nurturing Christian environment in which to live, assistance in finding a job, weekly instruction on how to manage money through budgeting and banking, and an opportunity to save money.
“Instead of just the donation drive, we also take other donations,” Reidy said. “We could always use household item donations, and for the children, we could use items such as puzzles and games. Since the families move in, and then after four or six months, they have to move out, we can use volunteers to help us clean the apartments. We can also use people to help us organize our storage units.
“One thing I like to tell people is that this organization isn’t where we just give people fish; it’s where we teach them how to fish. And I just always think that’s a good way to explain what we do.”
Homeless people who are interested in the Doors of Hope organization in the county can pick up an application from The Salvation Army, complete it, and someone from the Doors of Hope team will pick it up and process it.
“Each year, Doors of Hope helps around 11 families and their children,” said new case manager Carrie Driskell. “The program gives them an opportunity to become more independent and gain the skills that they need to not be homeless anymore, and go back and make a positive impact in our community.”
Organizations like Doors of Hope help struggling families in Oxford become more aware of financial planning and goal-setting.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to help someone who is down and out,” Driskell said. “And when you hear a child finally say they are able to sleep in an actual bed, and being able to have that impact on such a young generation is such a powerful experience. Everybody has an opportunity to make an impact with families just by giving back to the community, and that’s what Doors of Hope is all about.
“We are truly grateful for this opportunity. And getting the word out of Doors of Hope – I feel like when people are finally aware of what we are doing, they might want to give back and help and do what we are doing as well, giving back hope to the community, which is so important.”