A Humble Beginning
The Shepherd’s Way (TSW) was founded by Fred Scarbrough, a local veterinarian, who explains it this way: “In 1995, after many years of sitting in the pew every Sunday, God motivated me to action.” From that day forward, helping homeless families and individuals has been his mission, with a focus on staying “God centered and servant oriented.”
In spite of their diverse needs, Fred recognized the one thing that those who are homeless have in common is their profound loneliness. With this in mind, he grounded The Shepherd’s Way on three principles.
- The homeless need to know they matter to God
- They need a new set of friends and community, and, like all of us…
- They need God at the center of their lives
Despite his professional success, Fred was coping with his own emptiness. He found through serving others, he was also transformed. Here’s what he says about the experience: “I find it so difficult to explain to people how much better my life is today. One of my missions is to help others feel the same joy that I do every day.”
In 1995, the Christ Church United Methodist Feeding Ministry took hot meals every Thursday evening to “Tent City” in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Tent City was a parking lot with canvasses under which there were hundreds of cots for the homeless. It was, at that time, Fort Lauderdale’s response to homelessness. As the homeless residents of Fort Lauderdale lined up for meatloaf, Fred was drawn to visit and talk to the individuals and families who were in need.
God gave Fred a burden for the homeless.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1995, with no money, staff or formal plan, The Shepherd’s Way housed its first family, a mother, father and five month-old baby girl who had no place to spend the night, and no baby food. Using rooms at various hotels, paid for by volunteers, The Shepherd’s Way began housing families. TSW elected a board and was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt, not-for-profit corporation with the State of Florida in March, 1996.
The Shepherd’s Way’s first homeless family shelter was an eleven unit apartment building that opened in 1996, called “Paul’s Place.” Michael Landers described its transformation like this, “The “Paul’s Place“ property was known locally as ‘the zoo.’ It was overgrown with 30 years of neglected vegetation. The buildings suffered the same 30 years of neglect. To say it was an eyesore would be kind. In just six short weeks, volunteers turned the property completely around. The buildings were painted and the grounds were completely cleaned up and landscaped. Everyone involved just shook their heads in amazement and wonder at the power of God’s work.”
Engaging the Community
Realizing that homelessness had become more of an epidemic than ever before, The Shepherd’s Way hosted the Christian Summit on Homelessness in 2005. More than 20 churches and Christian organizations, including approximately 100 individuals, attended the summit. Participants received valuable information on what to do when homeless people turn to local churches for help. Attendees also learned about other homeless service providers in Broward County.
In August 2007, The Shepherd’s Way hires new Executive Director, Robin Martin. Robin brought eight years of experience in working with agencies that provide services to the homeless, including serving as a former Director of Programs for the Coalition to End Homelessness in Broward County. He has a master’s degree in divinity from Trinity Western Seminary and a bachelor’s in business administration.
Responding to the Crisis
In February 2008, The Shepherd’s Way began a new program to assist homeless families in Broward County, called the Faith In Action Community Housing program. Partnering with local churches, Faith In Action set out to provide safe places for families to stay while they await placement into mainstream shelters.
Additionally in 2008, TSW began HOPE Central – a one stop multi-purpose center for families in crisis. HOPE Central serves as the single entry point into the homeless continuum of care and provides community services for individuals and families that are in need. Through partnerships, services also include: a food pantry, shared mass meals, childcare and financial literacy.
The story of HOPE
On August 22, 2010, eight of the largest churches in the Fort Lauderdale area joined together, in partnership with The Shepherd’s Way, to launch HOPE South Florida. The idea was, and is, to work collectively to “Build Hope, Build Housing and Build Community” as part of a holistic response to homelessness.
Today, HOPE South Florida continues to grow and gain momentum as more churches, businesses and individuals seek to engage with us. Using their time, talent and resources, they benefit those who find themselves homeless in our community.
From one man’s vision and one church’s support to help 11 families at TSW, HOPE South Florida now partners with over 50 local churches, and houses over 100 families and veterans every night.
Our story has only just begun – join us, we’re just getting started.