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Hurricane Relief for the Homeless

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As residents continue to deal with the aftermath effects of Hurricane Idalia, those who face the greatest struggle are those experiencing homelessness among us. Longtime community activist and leader Ellen Paul has given us a glimpse inside the life of an individual for whom there is no port in the storm. Ellen stated, “If a person lives in a tent in the woods, then a storm like this one stands to destroy their entire way of life. The wind will destroy their tent or tarp. The water from the rain will flood their tents, ruin their food, and destroy their clothes, beds, ID, and other possessions.”

H.O.P.E. is here for those who need help and relief after Hurricane Idalia. Serving the homeless and underprivileged is Hernando H.O.P.E. (Helping Other People with Empathy), which Ellen Paul founded.

“A lot of people lost everything in the storm. Many people have lost something. The largest problems are (1) tree limbs that came down on tents, shredding them; (2) soaked and ruined bedding; (3) IDs and other important papers that were destroyed; and (4 and 5) nonperishable food and clothing,” said Paul, who was named a Hernando Sun Local Hero in 2022.

At this time, the public is asked to supply hope to those who need it. “We could use money to replace tents and IDs. We also need clean bedding (including bedrolls), non-perishable food (cans are great, and nothing that requires refrigeration), and clothing, especially men’s clothing,” said Paul. “We are chronically short on men’s clothing. Pants sizes 29–34 are especially appreciated, as are shoes that are sizes 9–11.”

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H.O.P.E. has much to give, both in terms of supplies and information. “What we have to offer at this time is women’s clothing, some sheets, and blankets (no pillows and no towels as they are already gone). We have a very limited food pantry as it has been depleted already,” she said. “We also have information on food pantries, clothing barns, and other emergency assistance providers.”

Hernando H.O.P.E. is the latest philanthropic endeavor for Paul, who has been an active community volunteer for five years. “To date, I’ve helped get 111 people off the streets and out of the woods. H.O.P.E. helped 11 people in its first month,” she said.

Aside from providing both emergency and long-term storm relief efforts, Hernando H.O.P.E. seeks to connect the homeless and impoverished with food, housing, and employment resources. In the future, Paul hopes to train volunteers to educate those in need about economic matters and other vital issues.

Through her rebrand as Hernando H.O.P.E., Paul hopes to send a definite message to people in need and to the Hernando County community as a whole. “I wanted to choose a title that was short and memorable but that meant something. And I definitely wanted to include the word Hernando in the title. We’re offering hope here at home,” she said.

Currently, volunteers and cash donations are needed. Their phone number is 352-773-1139.

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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