Two awards from the Tampa Housing Authority hang on Hope Terrible's dining room wall. One is the Geraldine Barnes Resident Recognition for personal development, dated 2012. The other, which she received in July, recognizes her for "Extraordinary Accomplishments as a Public Housing Resident." Terrible was honored for starting her own business, Full of Hope Cleaning Services.
Her counselor had invited her to a lunch and didn't tell her about the award. "That was a shock," she said. "I called my mom as soon as I left. My mama's so proud of me."
Terrible, 45, welcomed Tampa Bay Times reporter Elisabeth Parker into her Temple Terrace apartment, which she shares with her 2-year-old goddaughter and her fiance, to share her story, her plans for the future, and how she got her unusual name.
So how do people react to your name?
Some people can't believe it. You got to be kidding. REALLY? Are you terrible, Hope?
I have to show them my driver's license. But I have a good sense of humor. I never get insulted. That's how a lot of people remember me — because of my name. It's unforgettable.
How did you start your business?
It was because of the Tampa Housing Authority. They paid for my business license. I was living in Central Park Village before it was torn down. I think it was 2003. As they were relocating us, they offered many programs for us to be more self-sufficient. I took every single class they had. There were workshops on how to use computers, how to clean your house. I was already cleaning houses for other people. My counselor suggested I turn it into a business. "We'll pay for your license."
Take everything they have to offer. That's what I tell people now. It will get you somewhere with your life, if you want to be a positive role model.
What are some of the obstacles you've overcome?
I was born in Tampa. I lived in public housing, Ponce de Leon, in College Hill with my mom. I left home when I was 15. I was a bad teenager and got into a relationship with a guy who ended up in jail. That was when I made a break. I went to Brewster Technical Center. I was going for my GED, but instead, I got a certificate in child care. Then I got married in 1999, and that's when I got the last name Terrible. I had rushed into a marriage thinking I was in love. But he really wasn't. He left me for another woman. Then he was deported back to Haiti.
Did you ever get your GED?
I got my high school diploma. When my business first took off, I was trying to work and go to classes for GED through the housing authority. I took the GED test twice and failed. I was stuck on the algebra. My last teacher told me he was going to get me through it as long as I came to class and stayed focused. I would come — it didn't matter where I was working during the day, I'd come to West Tampa and sit in that class and pay attention. I got my diploma at the age of 43.
Tell me about your business.
It started in 2009. I got a contract with a construction company. I have several employees. They all have an assigned job. I like cleaning houses but prefer construction. There's a lot of dust, a lot of wiping down.
Do you have any cleaning tips?
Here's one: Take baking soda and saturate the bottom of your oven. Then spray it with water. Wait 5 minutes and repeat the same steps. Wait about 10 minutes, get a sponge and wipe it out. No fumes, no toxic residue for your kids or pets.
I know you don't want to give away all your secrets.
I have to save some.
What are your future goals?
When I started getting into my 30s, I started wanting more. I wanted my own business by the time I was 40 and I wanted my diploma. I got out of public housing in 2012. Now I want to give back. Some of the elderly people living in housing don't have family and need help cleaning. I got help for free, why can't I help them for free?
I also want to start a home family child care. It's comforting to me. Just a little small one. And, of course, getting married to my fiance and traveling.
Where would you want to go?
The Bahamas. Las Vegas. Puerto Rico. Jamaica. My goal is to be able to afford those nice vacations.
Weekend Conversation is edited for brevity and clarity.