Lights the Way for Teens Struggling to Find Their Way
A startling statistic reveals that in the U.S., nearly one in five youths under the age of 18 will run away from home at least once. Of the youth who run away, nearly 41 percent have been abandoned by their parents or guardians for at least 24 hours, and 43 percent have been beaten by a caretaker. In the 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, Florida was one of the states with the largest number of unaccompanied homeless children under age 18. It was a decrease from 2013, but not by much. That’s why non-profit organizations dedicated to helping those who cannot help themselves, (those under legal adulthood age of 18,) are so important and necessary. One such organization was started in Orlando – The House of Hope.
“Let the light shine,” says Sara Trollinger, who in 1985 created the non-profit, non-denominational and faith-based residential program that offers a safe refuge for teens aged 13 to 17 in times of trouble. The organization aims to help get them back on the right track as healthy and productive citizens and reconcile them with their families. Trollinger had experience helping youth in various ways before starting House of Hope. While working on her master’s degree in elementary education, which she would receive in 1967 from the University of Florida, she worked in Orange County schools teaching students with physical and emotional disabilities. After 25 years of teaching she retired in 1985, working briefly in the Orange County Juvenile Detention Center. She was shocked to witness the kids come and go as if entering a “revolving door,” continuing their troubling behaviors when released from the detention center, coming right back in.
A Christian woman, Trollinger would often pray. She was inspired one day during this time, saying “I knew the negative behavior of these troubled teens would not change unless they could understand life-changing principles based on God’s word.” She was motivated to create a home herself for runaways and troubled teens, and that’s just what she did, starting House of Hope with only $200.
Meeting Resistance with Love
In 1985, House of Hope was started as a refuge for teenage girls but started to accept boys in 1997. It has grown substantially since then, having more than 1,500 teens come through since its founding. It is not associated with a specific religion, does not force one to change their beliefs and they do not turn away teens due to their lack of funds, even though the foundation receives no government funding. They credit their involvement with the teen’s families to the success of the many who graduate from their program, holding weekly parenting skills and workshops along with family and group therapy.
They teach living skills to the residents and assign them to household duties and chores, teaching them personal responsibility. They encourage their participation in activities such as sports, drama, arts and crafts and teach them personal grooming, creative and social skills. Many of the teens that first come to House of Hope are unstable, troubled and disrespectful towards authority, yet House of Hope counters their actions in meeting them with love, stability, and offering them hope that things will get better. “Institutions don’t tuck teenagers in at night…but House of Hope does. House of Hope counts it a privilege to love, serve and help hurting teens and their families,” according to its website.
A Bright Future for House of Hope
Trollinger says that her ultimate goal is to have a House of Hope within driving distance of every major U.S. city. In the meantime, House of Hope recently expanded its current residential on-campus accredited school, calling it Hope Academy. It is a day program equipped with counseling for juveniles ages 13 to 17, serving as an alternative for parents who want to put their teens in a learning environment with less external influences. It includes Accelerated Christian Education and Florida Virtual School, allowing for a maximum of 15 students, less than the student to teacher ratio in Central Florida public middle and high schools. Parents are a part of the program as well, receiving weekly individual counseling as their children do, as well as weekly parenting classes. “We believe that today’s parents need a safe, educational placement alternative where they can be at peace and know that their child is receiving a quality education in a safe, loving environment,” said Trollinger.
Want to To Learn More? For more information on the foundation, how to
volunteer or donate, call (407) 843-8686 or visit houseofhopeorlando.org