Ocala apartment complex houses homeless women with children entirely free

Project Hope was founded because of lack of services in Marion County for homeless women with kids

ORLANDO, Fla. – Project Hope was founded in Ocala more than a decade ago specifically for homeless women with children because there was no where for those women to turn.

The faith-based charity, supported by local law enforcement, houses 60 moms and children at a time, all living together in the same community.

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Janine Ross just graduated from Project Hope and moved out of Hope Villas, the Northeast Ocala apartment complex where she lived for the past year.

“I was doing narcotics, I was not taking care of myself, let alone loving my life or my kids the way I should,” Ross said. “So being here gave me a new life for me.”

April McDonald, executive director for Project Hope, runs Hope Villas.

“They [women] come from shelters, domestic violence shelters, off the street, living on the couch with family,” McDonald said. “And they come sometimes literally with children and one bag. And we give them furnishings, beds, everything you would need to start with a new home. With the whole goal of them becoming self-sufficient.”

For as long as 18 months, Project Hope takes care of the children, giving them a stable, safe place to stay and everything they need to live like any other kid, while getting mom back on her feet and set for success.

“It’s amazing what they do,” Ross said. “They really push you to be the woman that you are already on the inside and I love it, and I really do.”

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the Ocala Police Department both strongly support Project Hope, often giving gifts to the children.

Donors pay for the housing, career training and life skills that the ladies are learning.

“But they leave with everything,” McDonald said. “So all of the donations that were given to them out of the goodness of people’s hearts they leave with. So that they’re not starting over again.”

Ross said thanks to the fresh start from Project Hope, she’s starting her own business.

“I got my CDL and I’m going to purchase my first truck!” Ross said. “I drive school buses for the School Board of Marion County.”

Project Hope was founded in Marion County in 2006. The founders made a promise to each other they would serve women in Marion County first, according to McDonald. The charity will consider anyone from anywhere if there’s room, but consistently they have a wait list of about 50 people.


About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.