Serving the community’s most disadvantaged populations is unfortunately something that’s overlooked in many parts of the country. In Naples, Florida, however, Corine and Larry Farguson run the Jacob Transitional Safe House, a place that provides residents with access to internal and external services that offer support towards each resident’s reintegration into the community. Thanks to both of their experience, and positivity, many of the members have successfully moved on and are functioning as productive contributors to their society.
Larry and Corine Farguson are two pillars in their community thanks to the amazing work they do every day with Jacob Transitional Safe House. Together, they’ve been able to grow the business to support an average of 30 residents of diverse age, gender, and race throughout multiple housing units as they grow and recover from their disadvantages.
Larry Farguson had to endure his own battle with addiction, which has given him the strength and empathy to be a great role model and advocate for other struggling individuals who feel hopeless in their lives. His positive spirit and motivated attitude have given him the chance to create a truly inspiring community of people who deserve the best out of life but have been blocking themselves from feeling that truth.
Now, both Larry and Corine have dedicated themselves to helping others with similar struggles get to a place where they can grant themselves the opportunities that previously seemed impossible to accomplish.
“Jacob Transition Safe House Inc. has housed and supported more than 1000 individuals from across the United States over the span of its existence. Throughout the lifespan of this privately own and operated residential support, many individuals were able to successfully transition to more meaningful and productive life in their communities,” – Jacob Safe House
Both Corine and Larry’s stories are those of hard work, dedication, and creating a difference in the lives of those around them, especially disadvantaged populations.
Corine came to the US from Jamaica with her family at a young age. “I was told we were moving here so I could have more opportunities and get a proper education, which I had to take care of on my own, because my mom had five children to care for, as a single mother. So, from a young age I understood the importance of being dedicated to your goals and how hard work and determination will propel you far in life.”
Growing up, Corine was heavily involved in civic groups and student government, sparking an early interest in being involved with the powers that make decisions to make the community and its people better.
“My involvement in student government growing up, and then in college, led me to a career working within the government space once I graduated, where I remained for 16 years. As I moved further into my career, I became involved with nonprofit organizations, working with individuals who were disabled or disadvantaged in some way. Disadvantaged either emotionally, mentally, economically, educationally, and/or socially.
With those needs, I became more of a civil servant in the occupational roles I took on. My goal with my work has always been to give opportunities and hope, most importantly, to those who needed it the most,” Corine explained.
Academically, her background is in public administration and policy: BA Public Administration, Master’s in Public Administration and Policy while pending completion of her PhD in the same field of Public Policy and Administration.
Corine Farguson possesses over twenty-eight years of experience in the field of public and private sector and non-government organizations (NGOs) along with ten years of teaching experience in Adult Basic Education/ GED, elementary and middle school education.
“I moved out of New Jersey in 2000 and have been in Florida ever since. Here, my involvement has remained in the government sector for the state and local county of Florida. I’ve always maintained a position where I could help others from the position of being a public servant, but also, from the position of an educator, as the two roles go hand in hand when it comes to the work that I’ve done and continue to do here in Naples, Florida.
When I moved to Naples around 6 years ago, I met my husband, Larry, and immediately fell in love with the mission he was on with Jacob’s Transitional Safe House Inc. His life’s journey gave him the motivation and opportunity to make a change in our world, starting at the community level, and that’s exactly what’s happened with the safe house.”
“At Jacob’s Transitional Safe House, we provide a number of services to assist, and uplift those who seek our help. We are a residential service that instills life skills within the home; how to live with other people, creating a budget for yourself, prioritizing work/education when necessary, protecting your physical/mental health, and more.”
Larry Farguson is the embodiment of making lemonade out of lemons. After working through his own battle with addiction, Larry has become an advocate and mentor for those who found themselves on the same path. He found his own healing through the help of a sober transitional house and rehabilitation centers where he was able to work during his recovery; planting the seed of inspiration for how he could further grow his own mission.
“When my disease was at its worst, I felt the weight of my life crumbling around me, it was like living in hell, and that’s a feeling that never leaves you. My faith and belief in God and myself helped get me through some of the hardest times in my life, and I want to continue to provide that same level of support for as many people as I can as time goes on and as we continue to grow the safe house.”
“I’ve been in recovery for around 35 years. All of my life I’ve felt like a taker, my addiction made it so I would take what I could from whoever I could. When I first got sober 35 years ago, I started working with kids as a volunteer at a treatment center. After doing that for about 6 months, the director of the treatment center saw the work I was doing with the kids, and my ability to listen and be listened to in our interactions and offered me a job.”
In Later years, he was employed at the Willough of Naples for 17 years as a supervisor with responsibilities that included hiring and training para-professional employees. This establishment treated addicts as well as those who suffered from eating disorders.
He conducted search and seizure and inventoried clients’ personal effects and other administrative duties. He later established his own business, Jacob Safe House, to bridge a gap in service for those in need of housing to continue their recovery. He periodically serves as a community partner who facilitates and manages small group meetings for individuals at the Willough and occasionally at the Collier County Sheriff’s correctional facility.
“At the Willough, I had the opportunity to speak with individuals who suffered from relapsing with their particular struggles. I could relate to the experience of being sent somewhere and immediately going back into the environment that fed the addiction after the fact. I dealt with my own cycle of being in and out of jail, and never finding the right environment that would allow me to heal and overcome my vices.
It wasn’t until I had the chance to come to Naples and stay in a sober house that I was able to break away from the cycle. The house is where my road to recovery and prosperity truly started. At that time, 35 years ago, Naples was a predominantly white community that tried to keep people of color, addicts, the homeless, and other disadvantaged populations away from the communities.
The sober house that I went to maintained a similar attitude, in terms of excluding black people and people of color, which greatly upset me, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and open a safe house for any and everybody who needed it.
I worked extremely hard to get my piece of property and fix it up and make it what it is today. It started off with two fully furnished 2-bedroom duplexes that could house up to six people at a time. I’ve had up to 40 beds throughout various apartments under my sober house. When Corine and I got married, she really helped me focus on what was important in regard to my mission, which became our mission,” Larry stated.
Larry’s extensive experience as an unlicensed professional counselor has helped him assist individuals find their path in life for two decades. His focus has always been around aiding youths and adults with substance abuse recovery, but thanks to the help of Corine, they’ve been able to expand to help young kids who left the foster care system with little to no resources for navigating the real world and its many hurdles.
“Together, we opened up the program for kids coming out of foster care while also helping those suffering from addiction, and other ailments. Our goal is to continue to grow and expand the business side of Jacob’s Transitional Safe House to provide the best resources and opportunities for those who come to us for help.”
Corine’s extensive experience in government, education, and advocacy in general provided a large set of tools that helped Jacob Transition Safe House grow into the amazing establishment that it is today.
“The part that I play in the grand scheme of things involves a focus on young people, particularly youth that are aging out of the foster care system. Hearing the amount of young people who age out of foster care programs every year who don’t have the resources or means to immediately live independently, was staggering,” Corine explained.
“Unfortunately, without having access to aid or resources after leaving these programs, many end up in jail, or down the path of drug and alcohol abuse, which stems from issues pre-existing within the system as well.
A big part of the problem when these kids come out of the system is they’re thrust into the world unprepared. In general, adjusting to life is difficult as you get older, but imagine not having any knowledge or help to get you on the right path. The abuse within the foster care system exists on multiple levels; drugs, alcohol, physical, sexual, emotional, etc. and kids in these unfortunate situations especially don’t know how to navigate the real world, which is why they then end up on self-destructive paths.
“For a large majority of youth in foster care, turning 18 means aging out of the system. They will need to find a place to live, food to eat, an income that can accommodate their cost of living, a bank account, perhaps a driver’s license, and car, some may still need to graduate high school, others plan for college, obtain medical and dental insurance, and all of the other things it takes to be self-supporting. At 18 years old, there are few who are ready to go out into the world alone, with no support and no place to call home and no family, but for many 18-year-olds aging out of the foster care system, they have no choice but to be ready,” according to their website and Child Crisis Arizona.
Even if they do have access to people and resources in the community, the abuse that they experience in foster care creates a major lack of trust between these young people and individuals who are in a position to help, because the original adults who were placed in their lives to help them, many have failed them.
That’s why this aspect of the safe house is a major focus for me, as I’ve seen a lot of these situations throughout my extensive career in government. For this particular sector of the safe house, we tend to see young people between the ages of 18-23. We have resources in place that will help our residents ideally grow into their full potential. As time has gone on, we’ve realized that one of the most important roles we can play in the lives of our residents, especially the younger inexperienced ones, is advocacy,” she asserted.
“When one grows up in a system that is constantly discouraging them or stunting their potential, it can be easy to stop advocating for yourself, and to view yourself as not worthy for the good things in life. So, it’s integral that we take on that role to remind them that they are in control over their own lives, and their futures can be just as bright and successful as anyone else, as long as they work hard, believe in themselves, and are dedicated.”
As for Corine, for the past three years, she worked as an elementary and middle school teacher at Bridge Prep Academy. Since joining the aforementioned academy in 2019, Mrs. Farguson has maintained responsibility for lesson plan preparation and education for second grade students. The lessons she teaches in the classroom everyday go beyond academia, as she feels she has the unique opportunity to guide the next generation to pursue their passions and remain on a path of success. Most recently, Corine was promoted to instructional coach and is providing academic and professional support to fellow teachers at Bridge Prep Academy.
“I decided to go into education while working in government. During that time, I worked for seven years consistently with adults who were pursuing their general education. I’ve always had the push to make changes in my community, and one of the best places to do that is in schools where the next generation is learning and growing.
When you offer a child a new perspective on something, it’s amazing to see how they take it in and use it within their own lives; it’s like the ultimate lightbulb moment.
My connections with the government also gave me a unique opportunity when it came to being an educator. I remember having a ‘Public Service Day’ where we brought in different service workers (firemen, emergency medical services, public transportation employees, and the sheriff’s department, etc.) so that the kids of our community could see the many different roles and responsibilities that go into running a fully functioning, collaborative, community.
Based on my own experience as a student, I try to motivate my students to get involved with student government and the community. Building relationships, making connections, and appreciating the work that goes into making a well-run community is important for life in general.”
Last school year, Corine was awarded Bridgeprep Academy of Collier -Teacher of the Year for her outstanding dedication, commitment and involvement in the school and the local community at large. Recently, Corine was inducted in 2022-2023 Marquis Who’s Who Publication and the Continental Who’s Who Registry for professional and executive members who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and achievement in their occupation, industry, and profession.
“The world needs more people who have a heart for others and want to help them find their way. At Jacob Transitional Safe House, we can help individuals find their purpose, while simultaneously providing them with a current purpose in their lives. We’re very connected within our community, so we have the chance to connect our residents with multiple resources and opportunities as they present themselves.”
According to their website, the “Jacob Transition Safe House Inc. provides member access to internal and external services that offer support towards each resident’s reintegration into the community. Many of the members have successfully moved on and are functioning as productive contributors of their society.”
Jacob Transition Safe House goes above and beyond to help those that live in their Youth Aging Out Support Services (YASS), which focus on their foster care youth ages 18 and up.
“Since opening this part of the program, we’ve learned a lot about emotional and psychological trauma, which is unfortunately a common problem among foster care youth. We help them thrive in a safe and caring environment while providing support wherever it’s needed. We are fortunate to have four young ladies from different walks of life currently in our program. We are proud of each person as they move towards independence.
Once such youth is Lupita (age 19) who came to us in 2021 pregnant. We guided and supported her through pregnancy while she studied to obtain her GED. She secured a job with the school district, saved, and purchased a car. Early in March of 2022, Lupita delivered her beautiful baby girl (Corine cut the umbilical cord). We are now the proud Godparents of a very smart baby girl, while coaching and supporting Lupita in her new role as a mother.
Lupita has become very active in our local church community while offering peer support to the other girls in our YASS program. She plans to go to college next year. We consider her as our poster child of our program.”
Corine and Larry have taken the girls on trips, local events and outings to help build social skills and experience new adventures. Most recently, Lupita and her baby daughter went on a cruise with their family.
“Our hope is to help these youth create a support system among themselves and in the community while building life skills for their future.”
Thanks to Larry and Corine’s hard work, dedication, and empathetic natures, they’ve been able to work on the path of prevention and early intervention with populations that aren’t prepared to undertake the heaviness of reality. This in combination with the amazing work they do to help those who suffered from the disease of addiction and/or other disorders, has made them a pillar in their community, and an inspiration for all of us to get involved and help those like we would help our own families and friends.
Larry and Corine Farguson are truly the embodiment of what it means to help your community. “The need is great and as we grow, we are seeking of like mind to partner with us to take this program to the next level through monetary and in-kind support. ” Jacob Transition House is an established not for profit 501 © 3 organization, all contributions are tax deductible.
“At the Jacob Transitional Safe House, our mission statement has, and will always be, to Empower Individuals on becoming conscientious, responsible, positive goal-oriented contributors of society.”
To learn more about Larry and Corine Farguson, as well as the incredible work they do every day at Jacob Transitional Safe House, check out their website by clicking here
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.