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Cumberland Group Builds Hope for Homeless

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FAYETTEVILLE — The Cumberland County Hospitality Network is working on a unique program to help homeless families become economically self-sufficient.

The group used $350,000 in local donations to buy a small Fayetteville neighborhood that has been boarded up for years. It will be converted into a transitional neighborhood where homeless people can live, and receive the help they need to eventually own their own homes.

Denise Giles was once homeless. Now, she is working to help homeless families through the network.

"Personally speaking, it creates an opportunity to become a part of the community, instead of taking from the community," Giles says. "And that builds self-esteem."

While most shelters have short limits on how long a person can stay, homeless families will be allowed to stay in Asheton Woods for up to two years.

"Very often they need to find employment or go back to school, and just work on other issues," project coordinator Sylvia Ray said. "People really need extra time to work out those issues."

In return, parents will be required to take courses in subjects ranging from budgeting to education. The programs, including daycare, will be available at the neighborhood site.

With rental rates on the rise, the ultimate goal is to get the families into home ownership. The community group wants to provide the working poor the stability they cannot find moving several times a year.

"I don't want these children to suffer," construction coordinator Pat Howell said. "If they have this stability now, they will be better people in our community in later years."

The Cumberland County Hospitality Network is still applying for grants, but they hope the neighborhood will be self-supportive. They are also looking for more donations and volunteers.