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Doors of Hope helping Oxford and Lafayette County families get back on their feet

Twenty-eight-year-old Yvette had the world at her fingertips. Four weeks later, she and her three children were sleeping on a friend’s couch. Unexpected cutbacks at her workplace left Yvette unable to pay rent, buy food and pay utilities.

She and her family, due to circumstances beyond her control, had become homeless, requiring assistance to get back on their feet.

Homelessness in Oxford and Lafayette County does not necessarily look like homelessness in a large metropolitan area. Fortunately, one does not see people begging on street corners in Oxford. But homelessness is nevertheless a real problem. Families in need include young single mothers with little-to-no support network. Despite their hard work and good intentions, just one unexpected medical bill or family emergency pushes their finances quickly out of balance.

In 2011, Sheryl Williams-Jenkins felt compelled to make a difference for these homeless families. She left her job at the University of Mississippi to start Doors of Hope Transition Ministries (DOHTM). Since then, DOHTM has served 46 families, including 88 children. Seven families have been served in 2017.

Doors of Hope has three apartments in which families can live rent and utility free for four to six months. During the Self-Sufficiency Transitional Empowerment Program (STEP), families meet regularly with a social worker to help them with budgeting, employment issues, health needs, transportation, food planning, and childcare. Families invest 30 percent of their earnings in an escrow account in order to have money for a deposit for their own apartment or home at the end of the program.

This year, Doors of Hope has implemented a new Housing In Place program. This program helps families at risk of eviction to remain in their own apartment. Doors of Hope works with the landlord after the family has passed the DOHTM criteria and been accepted into the program. The family signs a contract that outlines their responsibilities to help them get back on their feet. They then begin meeting with a caseworker who provides guidance and structure in the form of weekly objectives and tasks in order to track clients toward financial independence.

Three new members of the Doors of Hope team are working hard to help client families succeed. Jo Turner, LCSW, case manager; Hunter Fillers, AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) volunteer; and Mary Margaret Andrews, administrative assistant. Jo came out of retirement to begin working for Doors of Hope part-time.

Her experience in many areas of social work has helped the families find success in reaching their goals. Hunter Fillers has a one-year assignment to complete a formalized financial literacy program for our clients.

As a not-for-profit organization, Doors of Hope relies solely on the generosity of our community members. Our annual fundraiser this year is the Holiday House Tour and Party on Dec. 2.

Information about tickets can be found on the Doors of Hope website: www.doorsofhopeoxford.org or by calling the office at (662) 234-1100.