On March 7, Nativity Catholic Church hosted its annual Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality (HOPE) spring convention ahead of its Nehemiah Action Convention. During the convention, issue committee leaders addressed the steps they have taken and offered progress reports on this year’s three main issues facing Hillsborough County: crime, support facilities and the environment.
Deacon Bob Harris from Nativity Catholic Church reminded the over 200 guests of their responsibility to justice, despite being from different denominations and churches. This shared calling is what allows all the members of HOPE to work in unison to create change for the members of their community.
The first of these issues was criminal justice. In the briefing, the leader of the criminal justice subcommittee addressed the number of arrests for misdemeanor crimes and non-safety-related traffic offenses, such as driving without a license. They hope to reduce the punishments for these crimes in order to help those offenders who cannot afford to pay the fines or serve a sentence without losing their jobs, houses or other necessities. They cited evidence that shows these convicted, poorer offenders are at risk of spiraling into a criminal lifestyle because of their inability to correct their offense.
The second issue was improving access to mental health and addiction recovery support in Hillsborough County. The subcommittee leader indicated that the Recovery-Through-Work Clubhouse received the monetary backing that will allow them to open up the facility on N. Florida Ave. this summer. With the success of the clubhouse, HOPE aims to continue to fight the high cost of and stigma surrounding getting help as well as improve access to supportive housing.
The third and final issue addressed was the concerns about pollution and Hillsborough County’s environment. The subcommittee is working with decision makers to combat climate change and flooding. They addressed concerns over stormwater retention ponds that aim to reduce flooding during the high volume of rain Florida sees each year.
On March 28, these issues were presented to around 2,000 HOPE supporters and members. The event was hosted at Nativity Catholic Church and online to bring the Nehemiah Action event to as many of its members as possible.
For more information about HOPE, visit hillsboroughhope.org or call 813-221-4673.