Empowering neighbors, strengthening community bonds, and building hope – these are the driving forces behind Hope Partnership’s mission in Osceola County. On Thursday, October 5, 2023, Reverend Mary Lee Downey, the organization’s founder and CEO, unveiled another significant step towards achieving this mission.

Downey officially announced the beginning of the transformation of the old, run-down Crown Motel in Kissimmee into 34 affordable studio-style housing units for low-income residents, marking another stride in combating the escalating housing crisis in Central Florida.

Joining Downey in the groundbreaking announcement were Congressman Darren Soto, Representative Kristen Arrington, Osceola County Commissioner Cheryl Grieb, and Florida Senator Victor Torres. Their collective commitment to addressing the housing crisis underscored the significance of this initiative.

“We were excited to announce now in total, $1.75 million to help out with affordable housing here with the Hope Partnership. We know on the US 192 corridor, there’s a lot of working families that are struggling to be able to afford housing here. We want them to be able to live in dignity and continue to provide memories for folks coming in from around the country,” Congressman Darren Soto shared during the announcement.

In recent years, housing costs, inflation, and interest rates have been on the rise, posing significant challenges for many families and individuals looking to secure affordable housing.

“This is a true testiment to how partnerships work here in Osceola County to make sure that everyone has a safe place to call home. We talk about the government entities, but it’s also the personal relationships that make it happen. We know Mary Lee Downey, we know her team, and we want to help them on their mission,” State Representative Kristen Arrington who successfully worked on the $500,000 funding from the state.

Thrive Studios
Hope Partnership Thrive
Hope Partnership

“This has been many many many months in the making, and just be able to stand here and know that the transformation is going to occur before our very eyes us very exciting,” Osceola County Commissioner Cheryl Grieb shared. “It takes a village, literally. The county has invested over $41 million over the last several years to make sure that we have over 1,000 units now in Osceola County but still that’s not enough.”

Since its inception in 2013, Hope Partnership has been a pillar of support for those in need, affectionately referred to as “heartbeats” by the organization. They have tirelessly provided housing, food, clothing, and a wide array of services, including identification assistance, employment opportunities, and case management. Over the years, Hope Partnership has touched the lives of over 100,000 individuals, embodying its commitment to uplifting the community.

“When I became the founding executive director of “Hope Center,” I swore we would never do housing. Three years later, I was advocating for us to become a housing organization in addition to our work in diversion and case management,” Downey said in a press release sent after the news conference.

Hope Partnership has set an ambitious target to have all 34 studio apartments at Thrive Studios renovated and ready for occupancy within a year. This timeline reflects the organization’s sense of urgency in responding to the housing crisis and its commitment to making a positive impact as swiftly as possible.

Hope Partnership’s Thrive Studios funding includes $1.75 million from U.S. Congressman Darren Soto’s office, $1 million from the county, $500,000 allocated from American Rescue Funds by County Commissioner Cheryl Grieb, $500,000 from the State of Florida via State Rep. Kristen Arrington, and a $1 million loan from the Florida Community Loan Fund.

The decision to convert the old hotel into Thrive Studios signifies the organization’s dedication to not only addressing immediate needs but also implementing long-term solutions that enhance the quality of life for Osceola County residents.