La Esperanza Home for Boys
Located in the small town of Combes, Texas in what Texans call “The Valley” sits one of Southwest Key’s oldest programs. Founded in 1972 by Father Jerry Frank, La Esperanza Home for Boys is an alternative treatment facility for boys placed in the juvenile justice system. La Esperanza focuses on a strength-based therapeutic approach versus the traditional punitive approach used by the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) which runs state prisons for youth in Texas. This therapeutic approach has proven to be highly successful and operates at a fraction of the cost to taxpayers than incarceration.
La Esperanza’s roots extend to the early 1980s when Dr. Juan Sanchez, founder and CEO of Southwest Key directed the program for eight years. After founding Southwest Key in 1987, he incorporated the program as one of its base models. Father Jerry Frank is now retired but still provides support services and church services for the youth in Southwest Key’s care.
La Esperanza Home is currently home to 19 boys ages 10 to 17. Its 17 staff members provide a host of services to the youth that range from educational classes to anger management and family counseling classes. In June, La Esperanza Home relocated from its original location in downtown Brownsville, Texas to its current location in Combes, Texas. Nestled in a spacious two-story house, this new location has proven to be a very positive transition for all of the youth. According to Hector Zuniga, Program Director of La Esperanza Home, the house has eliminated many of the stresses that were present at the other facility. The nature-like environment and multitude of rooms provides a more therapeutic environment which in turn has led to more success in school and fewer behavioral problems.
However, while the move has been a positive change for the youth, it has also resulted in a significant cost increase to the program. The biggest challenge the program faces is that funding from counties has failed to keep up with inflation and the rising cost of living. It is not representative of today’s needs to run a program, hence it must raise supplemental funds to cover expenses.
La Esperanza is the oldest residential program of its kind in the Valley. It continues to provide exceptional services far above and beyond state requirements. While formerly limited to South Texas, La Esperanza now accepts referrals from counties throughout the state. Due to increased expenses and the financial devastation suffered from Hurricane Dolly in June, Southwest Key is currently looking for funding and leadership opportunities to help sustain the program and the important services it provides. Please contact Program Director, Hector Zuniga at 956-421-2034 for more information about how you can get involved.