A Gulfport building that should be housing abandoned and neglected children is sitting empty instead. For years a non-profit organization called the Hope Foundation has been trying to establish a place where foster children can stay and feel safe. However, the organization's founder says the project never really got off the ground because of a lack of money.
Lynnise Jajo wants to fill the rooms of a 16,000 square foot building with the sound of children's laughter. She was ecstatic when, in 1998, it was donated to the Hope Foundation, a non-profit organization she founded. The plan was to create an emergency overflow shelter for abused and neglected children.
"We can provide life skills training like the smallest things from how to launder their clothes to educate them," said Jajo. "When they get out on their own and get in independent living programs they'll be able to be productive adults."
Four years later the halls are still empty and not one child has stayed here. Jajo says it will take $180,000 to $200,000 in renovations to bring the building up to code. Before the children can move in the Hope Foundation must find money for everything from sprinkler systems to a new kitchen.
Every weekend Lynnise Jajo and the foster kids head out to local businesses to ask for donations. So far this year they've collected about $3,000 but unfortunately, all that money has gone to pay the building's utility costs so Lynnise is asking the public for more help.
"These children need each one of us as citizens to step up and help get this going for them," said Jajo.
For now, Hope Foundation volunteers are caring for the children in their own homes until the shelter is ready. The Foundation is renting out part of the building to a church to help pay for its upkeep.