In today’s world, it often feels like negativity is winning. News highlights cover stories of darkness and sorrow. Disenfranchised populations often lack those who will stand up for them and create positive change. But an organization right here in Huntsville is looking to be that change.
Humans Optimizing Personal Empowerment, otherwise known as H.O.P.E., was founded by like-minded individuals who wanted to help impact at-risk people in the community. This includes populations such as low-income individuals, the homeless, LGBTQ, addicts, veterans, foster children, senior citizens and more. Their mission is “to empower individuals to improve their circumstances, relationships and futures.” Every person who works for H.O.P.E. is a volunteer, including the CEO and co-founder, Tami Buckey.
“We try to match community needs with resources,” Tami said. “We have a storage unit where we can keep any excess of donated items because a lot of our work involves moving donated items to those who need them.”
Currently H.O.P.E. has quite a few programs it focuses on. For example, the Chartreuse Project gives mentally ill persons an opportunity to find community in music and humor.
“There can be tremendous healing found through music and performance,” Tami said.
Sapphire’s Purse puts together kits containing items like a burner phone and some cash that can be given to a lady who needs to leave an abusive relationship. These items would be invaluable to someone trying to escape a bad situation.
Another project is called Pass the Umbrella, and it started when someone did a kind deed for someone else and gave them an umbrella. That person was then encouraged to pay it forward and pass along the umbrella at some point.
In addition to these programs, Tami and other volunteers spend a lot of time helping out in Huntsville’s homeless camps. In 2017, the homeless population in Huntsville was reported at 379, and that number has only increased in the past two years.
“We try to remind them of their humanity,” Tami said. “We’ve done projects like makeovers for homeless women, and we just try to talk to them and figure out what their needs are.”
Many homeless people struggle with addictions and substance abuse, something Tami is very familiar with.
“My dad worked with addicts for a lot of my life because my parents were actually addicts when I was a kid,” she said. “Now that my dad has passed away, helping the people he loved to help feels like I’m keeping part of him alive.”
Tami plans on working with the City of Huntsville to dedicate a new camp that will feature necessary amenities currently lacking in the homeless camps around here. One of these amenities is an outdoor shower system that will be semi-permanent and will use one water tank, called a water buffalo, a week.
“You can’t underestimate the power of a shower to make someone feel human again,” Tami said.
Another necessity will be port-a-potties, both male and female.
“Not only will this solve hygiene issues, but it will also give them a sense of privacy,” Tami said.
Additionally, Tami foresees the creation of gardening plots in the camp. This would give the camp residents an income, more nutritious food, and a way to be self-sustainable.
“We’re dedicating the camp to the lost and unseen,” Tami said. “Hopefully in the future, all of the homeless camps will follow this model. Otherwise, there is the concern that this camp could become overpopulated as people move in to use the amenities. But regardless, everyone should have access to these basics.”
Since Tami started H.O.P.E., she has grown tremendously as a person. “It keeps me very humble and puts everything in perspective,” she said. “I recognize the value in relationships. The organization is built on giving others hope, but it gives me hope too.”
H.O.P.E. is in constant need of help from the community to continue running their programs. Individuals can donate resources such as clothes, food or other resources that they don’t need anymore. Businesses can partner with H.O.P.E. by informing them of potential job positions that members of the homeless community could fill.
“We always need more volunteers, and we always need more money,” Tami said. “We need resources for camping, hygiene products, socks and shoes. We even need kitchen supplies and furniture, because often when people we’re helping get off the streets and get their own house, then they need all the things that go into that.”
Without a doubt, H.O.P.E. is making a difference in the Huntsville Community. And if you’re interested in bringing H.O.P.E. to others through serving with this organization, check out their website or Facebook page.
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