Feb. 20—A new nonprofit in the capital city aims to offer hope to homeless adults looking for a safe place to lay their heads.

That new nonprofit, called House of Hope, is a transitional sober living community that opened last month in East Topeka. And according to members of the nonprofit's board of directors, the primary goal is to help people get back on their feet following homelessness or addiction.

The thought of starting a new nonprofit transitional living facility surfaced between a couple of the board members about two years ago — and board member Avery Belibei played a big role in furthering the conversation.

Belibei has faced his own struggles with addiction and substance abuse. And in 2016, he relapsed.

"After a week of my binge on alcohol and drugs, I saw myself going down a path I didn't want to go down," Belibei said. "So I checked myself into Valeo."

He participated in Valeo Behavioral Health Care's recovery center, and while there, representatives with Oxford House, Inc. — a national nonprofit that supports democratically run, sober-living homes for those in recovery — visited to share what they were all about.

"I decided I wanted to be around people who were of that same mindset, wanting to be sober," Belibei said. "I applied to get in the house, and I got in. It's a good program."

But he recognized there was something missing from the Oxford House model — resources beyond the sober-living setting that help individuals become self-sufficient.

"There was nothing to help better my life," he said. "It was basically just live in the house and stay clean."

During his time there, he helped Oxford House stand up a new residence in Topeka, and he happened to meet Lisa Steele — who is now a fellow House of Hope board member — while searching for furniture for that Oxford House.

"She helped furnish our house, and we became friends," Belibei said.

They kept in touch and began talking about opening their own sober-living home to help people in the area. And House of Hope eventually arose from those efforts.

"We kind of saw that there was a need to help people in Topeka who were at risk for homelessness," Steele said. "A lot of the facilities are full. They're kind of getting maxed out. What we wanted to do was help people who were in that situation, but we wanted to go a step further."

Not only does House of Hope provide transitional living in which individuals reside in a sober, communal setting — paying a minimal fixed rent and completing household chores to contribute to the upkeep of the home — but the nonprofit also offers a number of outside resources.

According to Steele, House of Hope helps people living in the facility set goals and meet them.

"The goal can be anything," she said. "It can be something that they want it to be, something they feel like they want to work on, or we do have a list of goals that we have them go through and look at."

For example, she said, if someone wanted to obtain their high school equivalency degree or start taking college courses or even become more financially adept, House of Hope would help them achieve that. The nonprofit also pairs residents with mentors who can provide guidance during their self-improvement journeys.

"Even though we've opened the home, the program is always a work in progress," Steele said. "You never know what their goal is going to be. ... It might not be one we already had planned on, so we're going to have to pull some resources."

According to Steele, House of Hope's seven board members have been meeting at least bi-monthly since March of 2020 to make the nonprofit a reality. They set house rules, hired a house leader and put in a lot of time and paperwork, she said, to create the nonprofit.

Now, they're waiting on applicants.

House of Hope's first facility is an all-male residence that can house six men and a house leader. Three of those six spots are currently filled.

As a transitional living facility, House of Hope is meant to provide shelter — including utilities, furniture, toiletries and basic food — for up to two years, as residents take advantage of available resources to become more self-sufficient.

There aren't restrictions on who may be admitted to the home. They just need to have a desire to be better, Belibei said.

"There aren't any restrictions on who can and can't get in," Steele added. "It's really the fact of is this the right place for you. We don't have any issues with people that have felonies. We don't have any issues with people that have crimes in their past. We can take anybody."

Those interested in applying, or who know someone who might like to apply, should visit HouseOfHopeKS.com, or the group's Facebook page, to contact the organization.

Once House of Hope is able to fill its first home, the nonprofit's board members plan to stand up additional ones.

"We need the house to be full and stable before we start looking at a new house," Steele said.

And the next one would be meant for women.

"We've had numerous calls from women wanting to come in the house," Belibei said.

In the meantime, House of Hope is asking community members to donate to the organization if they can, refer people to live in its facility, consider becoming a House of Hope mentor and pray for the nonprofit's mission and clients.

Belibei said he wouldn't be where he is today without the support of similar programs, and he hopes House of Hope will become someone else's saving grace.

"I just really want to see people being set free from their addictions and their struggles," he said. "I do believe we need community to get through things. It's hard struggling on your own, having nobody to turn to, nobody to help lift you up. Community like this is something that's needed. Without it, it's going to make things a lot more difficult."

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