H.S. Lopez Family Foundation Center of Opportunity Celebrates Five Years

Homeless to Hope

By Tom Leyde

A program that offers hope for a life beyond substance abuse and homelessness celebrated its fifth anniversary June 7, and its accomplishments are nothing short of amazing.

The H.S. Lopez Family Foundation Center of Opportunity works in conjunction with the Gospel Rescue Mission at 4550 S. Palo Verde Road in Tucson to turn lives around.

The Center of Opportunity is a comprehensive center dedicated to providing holistic care for people experiencing homelessness in Tucson. Through partnerships with organizations and volunteer service groups, the center offers a wide range of services to help guests regain stability, find jobs and permanent housing.

Gospel Rescue Mission is the managing partner of the Center of Opportunity. It’s a faith-based nonprofit dedicated to providing shelter, meals, recovery services and housing programs for those in need. 

In five years, the program has recorded these statistics:

  • 15,115 guests received at least one service
  • 747,375 meals served
  • 1,861 individuals secured permanent housing
  • 490 people completed a 12-month recovery program
  • 1,652 secured new employment
  • 1,055 children served, through shelter, meals and being reunited with parents after the parents have completed recovery

Humberto Lopez, founder of the H.S. Lopez Family Foundation, had a vision for the center 12 years ago when he visited a homelessness center in Phoenix, which offered similar services to the Center of Opportunity. 

“When I first envisioned the HSL Center of Opportunity, I had high hopes for its success,” Lopez said. “But the reality has far exceeded my expectations. … I want the center to become a national model where other communities can replicate what we have done in our community by using the Center of Opportunity name.”

Lopez has registered the center’s name in all states with homelessness groups to help solidify best practices, services and job relocation so they are all consistent.

“In order for this dream to become a reality, we would need other wealthy individuals or foundations to provide the initial funding, and we would help them by providing the necessary training and tools to replicate our homeless shelter,” Lopez said.

The program got off the ground when the Lopez Family Foundation bought a closed hotel on Palo Verde Road. It has expanded by adding buildings, staff and services.

For Lopez and his wife Czarina, the center and GRM’s mission has become personal. Their daughter Illiana Lopez is a successful graduate of the program and will be working there. Illiana Lopez spoke during the event and thanked those who helped her recovery journey.

Lisa Chastain, CEO of Gospel Rescue Mission said: “The Center of Opportunity is not just a homeless shelter. It is a homeless service center taking people from homeless to wholeness. We join hands with over 60 organization and volunteer service groups to provide holistic care for our neighbors experiencing homelessness. This holistic approach is what sets us apart and allows us to make a lasting impact on the lives of those we serve.”

Derrick Nicholson, who also successfully graduated from the Center of Opportunity, spoke about his transformation from homeless drug addict to a contributing member of society.

“I was living in the trenches of hell in Tucson …,” he said. “I had a life of destruction. I was in and out of jail and had nowhere to go.”

“It was a real defining moment to me … to get a new life started,” Nicholson said.  He continues to do mentoring and teach a class at the facility. “I love coming back here. It’s amazing.”

Among the organizations partnering with GRM and the center are El Rio Health, Pima Community College and Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona, which has a new medical respite partnership with the center.

“It takes a village, it really does,” Chastain said. And to those who have sought help from GRM and the center she added, “Thank you for your bravery. It takes courage to walk through those doors.”

Pictured above from left – Lisa Chastain, CEO GRM; Iliana Lopez, HSLopez Family Foundation; Humberto Lopez, Founder, HSLopez Family Foundation; Czarina Lopez, HSLopez Family Foundation; Clinton Kuntz, CEO El Rio Health; Terrance Watkins, Catholic Community Services; Ian Roark, Pima Community College

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