CRESTVIEW — Members of several area churches want to provide housing for the poor with the community's support. The Helping Other People Effectively Network would establish transitional housing and a permanent shelter here, if it reaches its goals.
HOPE leader Ann Sprague said she plans to meet with local bank officials to learn about foreclosed homes, although the organization would accept donations for a house and contractor services.
It's the next step in helping needy North Okaloosa residents, she said.
HOPE members gather monthly to coordinate soup kitchens and cold weather shelters.
Representatives of Crestview's First United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church in Crestview and the Journey Church say the need has increased.
"We can see it growing; of course, a lot of it has to do with the economy," Ed Kitchen, of First Presbyterian, said.
Sean Peters, pastor at the Journey Church, said attendance at their soup kitchen has grown steadily since the service opened last May.
"We had around 30 (people), on average, and then in the summer we had an average of 90 to 100," he said. "Since then the numbers have tapered off to around 75."
Many individuals who visit the area soup kitchens are not homeless, Jo-An Williams, of First Presbyterian, said.
"The majority comes from people on a fixed-income or (those using) food stamps," she said.
Regardless of whom they help or how they help them, working together is crucial.
"I think this is so important for the community," Peters said.
"The fact that churches are working together in the community to make something happen every day of the week ... to feed people and bring them out from the cold," he said. "It's a really good thing and I am excited that we are a part of it."
HOPE is always open to gaining new members, regardless of religious affiliation, Sprague said.
"Anybody is welcome," she said. "We are trying to find any opportunity to help the community.