BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - This month marks eight years since Hurricane Katrina forever changed the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Now, Hope Community Development Agency, an organization born out of that natural disaster, is expanding its mission. The director said Hope is so excited about the future.
"Hope was formed after Hurricane Katrina in an effort to make sure the Gulf Coast as a whole recovered," said Director Bill Stallworth. "We've been able to rehab about 840 homes. We've been able to produce 125 new homes but now our mission is starting to change."
As part of its changing focus, Hope CDA wants to transform blighted communities into thriving neighborhoods with programs that offer job skills, financial counseling, home ownership advice and children's activities.
"Really making these communities that are in trouble along the Gulf Coast vibrant and sustainable," Stallworth said. "We have the dream that when we get through working in these communities, that they are places that anyone would want to live. They are strong; they are basically safe communities."
Hope CDA's director said there is a misperception that the way to cure social issues is to throw money at the problem.
"You fix the people. They fix their own problems," said Stallworth. "Equipping people with the abilities to make themselves strong. Giving them the tools they need to actually build their communities. I think it's the most important thing that we can do."
"Instead of giving people hand outs. We give them hand ups at Hope," said Stallworth.
He said, "The lack of hope has really basically put communities into the places that they are. We find that when people don't have hope they basically give up. Then they are waiting on somebody else to come and solve their problems. We instill hope into this mix. We bring hope into the community. We make sure people have the tools to really prepare themselves."