When she arrived at Hope Home, the 16-year-old girl – a trafficking victim – was “hollow.”
“You could just look at her and see there was nothing behind her eyes,” said Chassidy Carroll, 2008 Howard Payne University graduate and Hope Home’s director and co-founder. “It was like she wasn’t really there.”
The teenager was one of a steady stream of young women ages 16 to 21 who have sought solace and a safe haven at Hope Home, a Brown County faith-based transitional home for those emerging from some of life’s toughest situations.
“Our girls are trafficking victims or they’re transitioning out of detention centers or foster care,” said Carroll. “Some of them are homeless for various reasons.”
When the girl arrived, hardened by circumstances beyond her control, she was terrified.
“She would push us away and actually tried to run away,” Carroll said. “Slowly, over time, she opened up to us.”
One day, the girl mentioned she had noticed a bird singing.
“She said, ‘I never knew birds sang,’” Carroll said. “I was shocked by that. It was heartbreaking to know someone had been so traumatized throughout her life that she couldn’t even notice a bird singing.”
Transformed by her experiences at Hope Home, the girl soon began discussing her goals and dreams.
“She got her GED and a job,” Carroll said. “She did all of things she never thought she would be able to accomplish. We still have a really close relationship and talk on the phone a lot.”
Though extraordinary, Carroll called the girl’s story typical of those coming through Hope Home.
“Being able to see her soften and trust people again is a success story,” Carroll said. “And we love those.”
Hope Home residents are asked to commit six months of their lives to take part in the voluntary program designed to teach life skills and provide a supportive, loving atmosphere for them to learn and grow.
Carroll grew up in Comanche and began at HPU in the fall of 2004 with the goal of becoming a missionary to South America. She enrolled as a double major in cross-cultural studies and Spanish.
“I did go on some mission trips through the university, but I learned that God was calling me to stay in Brownwood,” she said.
During her freshman year, she went with a group of friends to Brownwood’s Texas Juvenile Justice Department facility, then known as the Texas Youth Commission, to mentor young women.
“I fell in love with the opportunity to share Christ with the girls there,” she said. “I continued to do that the whole time I was at Howard Payne.”
During her junior and senior years at HPU, Carroll led large groups to the facility through the university’s Baptist Student Ministry. She fully engrossed herself in her ministry, spending several days a week mentoring the girls there. She discovered an unsettling trend.
“I saw so many kids who were completely broken and hopeless and sad,” she said. “They would come to know the Lord and they would start to have hope and dreams about the future. Then they would transition out of the facility and have nowhere to go. They soon would be back on the streets or back on drugs or in other really horrible situations.”
Carroll and another former HPU student, Chaley Perkins, began to discuss the girls’ options.
“We thought, ‘Why can’t we open a place here for them to go and be safe?’” she said. “I really just think it was something God impressed on my heart. It wasn’t my own idea. God opened all the doors for us to start talking with people in the community. People supported the idea really quickly so we rented a house and started taking in girls.”
Carroll welcomed the first young woman to Hope Home in March 2008 and graduated from HPU in May 2008.
“I was a little nervous to start something and potentially fail,” she said. “It was difficult the first couple of years. There were moments I doubted or was disappointed, but God was so faithful throughout all of that. Every time there was a disappointment or hardship, something would happen to show me I was on the right track.”
God’s reassurance often came in the form of addressing very specific needs.
“We would really need food for the girls and someone would show up with a carload of groceries,” Carroll said. “We could tell the Lord was watching out for us.”
To date, approximately 45 girls have taken refuge at Hope Home. The unassuming Brown County home is full of books and games, a pet cat and dog, and love and laughter. Carroll affectionately refers to the young women in the home as her “kids” and prioritizes family interactions such as morning Bible studies and nightly home-cooked meals.
The girls spend their days productively, working toward becoming independent young adults. They attend school and work, learn life skills, participate in church activities and have free time to do things that average teenagers enjoy doing.
Carroll and her staff – currently composed of HPU students Tate Scott, senior psychology major, and Kara Strange, senior business major – help the residents with homework, teach them to drive and guide them through life’s daily challenges.
“We’re consistent with them and show them love,” Carroll said. “If they mess up, we show them forgiveness. A lot of them either don’t have families or their families aren’t very supportive, so we become that family for them.”
Assisting young women through such heartbreaking situations can be straining, but reflecting on their courage gives Carroll strength to continue.
“Sometimes people tell me that they could never do what I do,” she said. “I think about how my kids didn’t want to go through what they went through but they often didn’t have a choice. They need someone to stand up for them and be brave for them. Their courage inspires me because I see how much they’ve fought to overcome their circumstances.”
Carroll said the most rewarding part of the process is seeing the girls years after they’ve left the home.
“A lot of them will say they don’t know what they would have done without Hope Home,” she said. “Not every girl makes a total transformation while she’s here, but all of them take steps toward a better future. It’s a beautiful process.”
Carroll expressed her gratitude to those in the community who support Hope Home’s mission.
“We’re thankful to our mentor families who work closely with the girls and to all of those who give of their time, prayers and other resources,” she said.
Hope Home, a 50l(c)(3) non-profit, is run entirely on donations and relies heavily on volunteers from the community. To learn more about volunteer opportunities and Hope Home’s financial and prayer needs, visit www.hopehomeministry.org.