Remodeled homes become transition place for homeless

- For more than a year, people in Sarasota have made it their mission to rehab a declining block of Martin Luther King Drive.

Their efforts prove, sometimes a little hope, some help, and a roof over a person's head can make a huge difference.

Just ask Michelle Ruebeck. She was homeless and addicted to drugs. Her life-changing moment came when she entered the Harvest House in Sarasota County.

"I didn't realize there was still life in me," she said. "This place has given me hope. It's a future. I'm tired of being lost and not being there."

Now, Harvest House is opening the Lee Wetherington Family Village for the homeless. It took a lot of hard work and about a year to turn homes off of Tuttle and Martin Luther King Blvd around.

The "after" photos make the "before" unrecognizable. That's what Harvest House hopes for its clients, too.

"It has just come together for a beautiful thing," said Harvest House Executive Director Erin Minor.

She said the homes were trashed and left in poor condition before her group purchased them.

"This was a magnet for criminal activity. It was really 3rd-world-like. There was open sewage. Many of the place didn't have running water, electric. There were bugs and mold inside," she said.

The community pitched in to help Harvest House, and completely remodeled each one. 

Families who live in the newly-remodeled homes will pay a maximum of 30-percent of their pay check as rent. Water, electricity and all the services they need will be provided.

There are 16 homes for homeless families and homeless young adults. The application process will begin in the summer.

"They come living in very dangerous situations. Living in a car, living doubled up with family and friends who are going to kick them out at any minute. Going from couch to couch," said Minor.

She hopes a stable home will be a stepping stone to a permanent life of happiness and stability. Once families move in, more than 400 people will reside at Harves House homes.

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