An old house hopes to create new lives

Larry Miller will never forget the conversation he had with a fellow inmate during his 13-month sentence.

Miller was released from prison on May 23 of this year after serving time for a felony hit and run. He questioned how he was going to take care of his wife, three kids and two grandchildren without his former lucrative job at Pitt Electric in Greenville.

He remembered the conversation.

“A friend told me while we were incarcerated about Hope Restorations,” Miller said.

The 46-year-old got out of prison on a Thursday and found employment as an electrician for Hope Restorations, Inc. the next Tuesday. Miller currently assists with renovating the House of Hope – that will one day help men just like Miller.

“My wife was struggling the whole 13 months,” Miller said.

“This job is a blessing to me. With my criminal background, it’s good when someone gives you a second chance.”

Hope Restorations officially formed in January of 2016 when the non-profit organization’s crew of men recovering from addiction successfully renovated a house on 1201 Sycamore Road in Kinston. Hope Restorations has continued to provide home renovation jobs for those men recovering from addictions or who were incarcerated.

Just weeks before Miller was released from prison, Hope Restorations received a two-story house that has provided employment for Miller and will one day assist 20 men at a time through recovery while they live there.

The House of Hope, located at 611 Mitchell St., is a ministry of Hope Restorations – and was once the Flynn Home. Chris Jenkins, executive director of Hope Restorations, said the Flynn Home closed in April of this year due to the extensive upkeep of the 103-year-old historic house.

Flynn Home directors donated the house to Hope Restorations after serving men with substance abuse issues since 1969, according to Annette Lapas. Lapas, former president of the Flynn Home board of directors, said the board donated the house to Jenkins because of the physical care Hope Restorations could place on the historic home through renovations. She added that the Flynn Home board received the house as a donation as well 50 years ago from a prominent Kinston family.

“Chris has a great operation,” Lapas said. “They would be able to serve those clients and preserve the home.

“The house is an asset to the community.”

Jenkins said the Flynn Home intended to serve as a halfway house but eventually became a boarding home. The House of Hope intends to provide 20 men at a time with an 18-week program of four phases that will transition them from rehab or incarceration to independence through recovery, education, employment and mental health services.

Jenkins said Hope Restorations currently has 15 men renovating homes, and he said the program has over a 60 percent success rate of positive outcomes from the men.

“It is very exciting,” Jenkins said. “We believe it will make our program even better.”

Currently under renovation, the House of Hope will offer four large rooms with five twin beds in each room upstairs, and lockers will be placed in the wide hallways outside the men’s bedrooms. They will live there for eight to 12 weeks and then “move out,” according to Jenkins.

The first phase includes pre-employment training directly out of rehab, detox, incarceration, or as an alternative to incarceration with no compensation. The second phase, while the men live at the House of Hope for eight to 12 weeks, offers paid construction work with Hope Restorations or elsewhere. Jenkins said the men working on large projects must have a “greater attention to detail.”

“If someone cuts a board wrong, they’ll cut another one and caulk will fix it,” he said. “But if it’s a $20,000 deck, it better be in top shape.”

The third phase lasts eight months, and the men will transition to a smaller house with increased independence and will seek employment outside of Hope Restorations if desired. Jenkins said the men will also receive career readiness training from Lenoir Community College onsite to eventually gain their certificates. Jenkins said the men will also receive mental health services from PORT Health.

The fourth phase will prepare the men to graduate from the program and move out of the House of Hope. The men must save for deposits during this phase and find employment and transportation.

“I say, ‘you can tolerate anything for 18 weeks,’” Jenkins said.

The House of Hope is somewhat empty at this time with a few volunteers or employees working at desks on the first floor. The rest of the first floor holds sheets of plywood, saw horses, ladders, paint cans and other tools. The second floor looks the same with empty bedrooms for the potential 20 men to reside.

Jenkins was unable to give a definite time of when the House of Hope will begin to operate with the 20 men.

“Who is going to pay for them to live here?,” he asked.

Jenkins said Hope Restorations is looking for funding from public safety and human service organizations. He said the program needs money for utilities, clothing and beds for the men. He said 20 beds – built by Hope Restorations – will cost $500 each, and that’s not including nightstands, mattresses and lockers.

Though the House of Hope has no tenants at this time, Miller and other men with Hope Restorations are creating better lives by creating a home for those just like them.

“We want to help turn a man’s life around by changing his attitude,” Jenkins said. “We want to instill better ideas so they don’t go back to their old friends – and don’t go back to jail.”

Copyright 2019

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