A few months back, Hather Ravolus was stuck.
A single mother of two, she spent each night at a different friend's house. It was a living arrangement she never would have chosen, the result of having lost her job. With nowhere else to go, Ravolus, 38, sought the help of Metropolitan Ministries after hearing about the new housing facility it was building north of downtown Tampa.
She was put on a waiting list. A few months later, she became one of the first to move into MiraclePlace, the newly erected transitional housing facility at 175 E Francis St. In the months since, Ravolus has learned new job skills, taken relationship classes and developed a new plan for her life. On Tuesday morning, she stood dressed in a black pantsuit and spoke to the donors and community leaders who helped make it happen.
"The clothes I wear are donated, but the smile I wear is genuine," Ravolus said. "Metropolitan Ministries took someone who felt like a nobody and made them feel like a somebody."
Ravolus spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new 54,500-square-foot family shelter, whose purpose is to provide residents with more than just a place to stay by giving them a place where they can learn to support themselves.
"This is a reflection of the capacity of a community," said Morris Hintzman, the chief executive of Metropolitan Ministries. Then, he addressed Ravolus and others whom the facility would serve.
"Hather, we're there for you," he said, "and the thousands and thousands who will come in the future."
A total of 52 families have already moved into the facility, according to Metropolitan Ministries. They have access to preschool programs, classes geared toward self-improvement, laundry facilities and a dining space. There are also individual apartments, which look like hotel suites.
The total cost for the project, on which construction began in May 2012, is about $13 million, most of which was paid through private donations, said Tim Marks, Metropolitan Ministries' chief operating officer. Donors have also pledged enough that Metropolitan Ministries can begin working on the project's two new phases: a chapel and an elementary-level school for the estimated 300 children who will reside at MiraclePlace.
"These kids deserve the same chance that my two kids on Davis Islands deserve," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. The mayor and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor were among those who used a giant pair of scissors to cut a red ribbon, marking the facility's opening.
Later, they moved to a plot of dirt a few steps away, where six young children held blue shovels to break ground on the spot where workers will build the new chapel.
For Ravolus, all of it means the potential for a new beginning. She works now as an intern for Metropolitan Ministries, and hopes that translates into a full-time job once she completes the program.
"The program is up to a year, but I don't think I'll be here that long," she said, "because I'm excelling."