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Restoring Hope Center provides societal reentry services to despairing men in a positive and spiritually enriching environment, enabling them to feel secure, confident and hopeful. For this reason our members become equipped with the primary tools to be successful. In over 2 decades no member of Restoring Hope Center has ever committed a new offense while in our program, therefore Restoring Hope Center is the answer!

Hometown hero: The street is her pulpit

By Robert PhilpotStar-Telegram staff writer

         On a cold winter day in 1996, evangelist Vida Davenport was praying about a homeless man who had stopped at an outdoor soup kitchen where she was ministering. The tall, neatly groomed man began weeping so copiously that tears soaked the front of his shirt. "I said, `Sir, it's obvious you have another need from God,' " says Davenport, a former insurance saleswoman and Star-Telegram circulation-route manager who dedicated her life to God after a 1988 motorcycle accident. "And the man looked up into my eyes and said, `I just need a place to stay.' And when he looked into my eyes, it was like a whirlwind started inside me." 

        It was the beginning of a revelation that led Davenport to found the Restoring Hope Center, which takes in homeless men and guides them toward finding employment and getting their lives turned around. Davenport continued to pray for the man, citing a Bible verse about the Son of Man having no place to lay his head. "And when I finished praying, the man looked back into my eyes and he said, `You mean Jesus really didn't have a place to stay?' " Davenport says. "And again his gaze into my eyes just weakened me, and I said, `No.' The man just half-smiled and nodded his head. And he got up, and started walking off. And when he got to the end of the line, he said, `Oh. Thank you.'

        She paused to regroup for a couple of minutes, then went to look for the man. But he was gone, and she couldn't figure out how he could have vanished so quickly. But the revelation wasn't over. "When I got in my car to leave the ministry, I got to the bridge where Hattie crosses 35," she says. "I stopped at the stop sign, and the spirit of God spoke to me, and said, `I want you to open a house of refuge for my people.' I said, `Me, God? I don't have any money.' And I crossed the bridge and stopped at the stop sign again, and the spirit of God said `I want you to open a house of refuge for my people.' And I said, `God, I don't have any money, and I don't know how. But if that's what you want me to do, I'll do it.' "     

        Although relatives and friends were doubtful, they offered support, and Davenport allowed a homeless man to move into her home until he got a job at a Wyatt's Cafeteria. She told him about the vision, and he was doubtful, too. "But on April 2, 1996, at 4:15 a.m., the spirit of God woke me up, and said, `Get up now, and start preparing a place for my people.' So I got out of bed, and I went up to my office and turned the computer on, and it was like a giant screen fell to my right, and what God wanted for the Restoring Hope Center just fell there.

        The center opened about a year later, and usually houses eight men at a time. The kitchen is open 24 hours, and there is no rationing of food; when the men are hungry, they eat their fill. It's easy to get a feel for what the center is about. Boxes of food, all for residents, rest on sofas, chairs and shelves. A living-room bookcase holds more than 20 Bibles, along with secular titles by Mario Puzo and Stephen King. "While we are a Bible-based organization, I don't spend as much time as most people think cracking the book," Davenport says. "I teach them with my life. Situations that they get in, I'll use biblical principles to show them and talk to them why they need to change and how they need to change.

     Although there are house rules, Davenport has kept them to a minimum. The outside doors close at midnight, and latecomers have to sleep on a backyard couch. New arrivals have to declare that they're drug- and alcohol-free, but because the center can't afford substance-abuse testing, Davenport has to go on the men's word. Thirty-seven men have come through the center in its short existence; only three have returned to the streets. Most have found jobs at nursing homes or nearby fast-food restaurants.

     Davenport's ministry is growing. On Wednesdays, she travels to Mineral Wells to speak to inmates at the Corrections Corporation of America's pre-parole transfer facility. She also has plans to expand the Restoring Hope Center, with an eye on the old Cowtown Inn and another on an old Kmart building. The Cowtown Inn location would house 216 people -- Davenport wants to offer services to women, too -- and the residents would help refurbish the old motel. Her plan for the Kmart looks like a community college, with areas for classes such as automotive repair, and a shelter area and a cafeteria.

     That's down the road, though. Despite support from area churches and local businesses, financing the center is still a day-to-day affair. The center welcomes donations of food and especially clothing, and could use more volunteers. If you're interested in helping, call 536-2723.