Hopes and Dreams grows

By Daniel Briseno dnl.briseno@gmail.com
Posted 1/11/21

Kids have their own hopes and dreams. Some are miniscule in nature and others are so large the world can not contain them, but no one ever dreams of being homeless. Unfortunately, homelessness in …

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Hopes and Dreams grows

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Kids have their own hopes and dreams. Some are miniscule in nature and others are so large the world can not contain them, but no one ever dreams of being homeless. Unfortunately, homelessness in Edgar County is on the rise and has been for quite some time.

The United States Congress on July 22, 1987, passed the McKinney-Vento Homeless Act. This act was passed to give federal funding to organizations helping the homeless. The act also redefined what being homeless means. There are many lines to the definition of homeless, but Beth Hansel of Hopes and Dreams, Inc. in Paris condensed it to a homeless family is anyone who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime abode.

As of June 2020, there were a combined 153 homeless students registered in the Paris 95 and District 4 school districts. That number is only part of the seven counties included in the Paris Hopes and Dreams area. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is concern youth are falling through the cracks as the enrollment in the Regional Office of Education #11 has dropped roughly by 900 students from last year.

Hopes and Dreams is a not-for-profit organization created by Hansel and Staci Garzolini-Skelton to help those families and children who find themselves at the bottom of the barrel. The organization is solely funded by donations and one such donation brought a big dream to reality. A huge step forward in the helping of the homeless occurred Jan. 5 with the opening of the Hopes and Dreams Drop-In Center.

“This day has been long waited for, and it is finally here,” said Hansel

While Hopes and Dreams, has long-term goals of building affordable housing for the homeless of our community, the group is striving to help the homeless youth graduate high school and go on to bigger and better things. The Drop-In Center located at 208 East Court Street helps by providing the youth three basic rights of life: Food, shelter and clothing.

When school is in session the Drop-In Center is open from 4 to 8 p.m. When School is remote the center is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The fully remodeled Drop-In Center includes a kitchen, a shower, computer stations, washers and dryers, and a lounge area where the youth can sit, relax, watch a movie and be a kid. Along with all of that, the youth can ask for help with their schoolwork and if needed, tutors are brought in for assistance.

Hopes and Dreams is giving the homeless children of our community just that. The hopes and dreams that it will not always be like it is. That there is a way out and with a little hard work and some perseverance anything is achievable. Helen Keller stated it best, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”