Homeless facility coming to Baldwin County in 2023

By Guy Busby
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 10/7/22

FOLEY – County commissioners hope to support efforts to provide a facility for homeless women and children in Baldwin County.At the Baldwin County Commission workshop Monday, Oct. 3, organizers …

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Homeless facility coming to Baldwin County in 2023

Posted

FOLEY – County commissioners hope to support efforts to provide a facility for homeless women and children in Baldwin County.

At the Baldwin County Commission workshop Monday, Oct. 3, organizers of the Baldwin Family Village Foundation said women with children now have no place to go if they need shelter.

The Rev. Darren McClellan, senior pastor of the Fairhope United Methodist Church and foundation president, said the group has located property near Fairhope where the facility can be located. They plan to open the center by April 2023.

"In January of this year, we recognized that there are no homeless facilities within Baldwin County and as part of our ministry and mission here at the United Methodist Church and other churches in this area, we recognize an increasing need for assistance and support," McClellan said. "Right now, facilities don't exist to be able to lead to a place of transformation we may find ourselves giving hotel assistance here or searching for some other Band Aid remedy for a time."

He said groups such as Family Promise, provide temporary shelter in local churches, but more help is needed.

"We have no such facilities here in Baldwin County, but we certainly have the need," McClellan said. "The Baldwin County School System tells us that in 2021 they were 300 children on any given night that were without a home, without a place to sleep. We believe we can do something about that."

Beth Biggs, Family Promise director, said more help is needed and she supports the foundation's efforts.

"We operate Family Promise Baldwin County, and I will tell you we receive about 15 calls a month for assistance for shelter from families," Bigg said. "About 20% of them are single women and children. And so often the families that we serve are the families that come to us and say, 'I just need one or two paychecks to get back on our feet.' All of our families are working families. But when we see a young mom with children, she needs more time and that's why the transitional housing. I'm so excited about having that here in Baldwin County."

Elizabeth Hammock, foundation treasurer, said the group has raised the $700,000 needed to buy an 8,000 square foot building in Fairhope. The building was a former memory center.

She said the foundation now needs to raise about $540,000 for operating costs and $200,000 to renovate the facility.

Commission Chairman Jeb Ball said he would ask if county funds could be used to pay the difference.

"I want to find the money to bridge the gap that they need, the balance that they've got if not more," Ball said. "I'm talking around half a million dollars."
Hammock said she was not expecting that level of support from the county.
"I think we're just blown away because I think we just wanted to comment," Hammock said. "We appreciate the thought."

Ball said county officials would have to determine what funds could be used for the project. Other commissioners also expressed support for the effort.

Commissioner Charles "Skip" Gruber said many people do not want to admit that Baldwin County has a problem with homelessness.

"I think it's a great thing getting started," Gruber said of the effort. "People don't realize how much homelessness there is in Baldwin County. They've always said there is no homelessness in Baldwin County, but they're wrong. They have been here; they've just been secluded. They find a place where they're not bothering people."

Commissioner Billie Jo Underwood said she has also wanted to help people, but the commission has not been able to provide support.

"We do get called and it kind of comes in spurts. Sometimes you get them all in one week and sometimes you don't hear from anybody in months, but there's nothing really that we can do," Underwood said. "Sometimes somebody will get on a soapbox and they're like, we need to do something. Why aren't you guys doing something? And so, this is awesome. I'm hoping that we can find some way to support you."

Commissioner Matt McKenzie, a retired state trooper, said he recalled times when he would find homeless people on the highway while on patrol.

"I used to pick them up on the side of the road and take them to the state line, years ago," he said. "It just breaks your heart. You can't do anything."

The Baldwin Family Village program would be modeled after the program at the Dumas Wesley Center in Mobile, McClellan said.

Kate Carver, Dumas Wesley director, said that program has an 88% success rate, about 17% better than the national average.

"It has to do with accountability, personal responsibility and dignity; just sort of a hand up not a handout approach," Carvery said. "We have a very rigorous program that we intend to replicate here in the Baldwin County Village. It includes background checks, drug testing, curfew. It includes mandatory life skills classes, that's twice a week. We meet with case managers one or two times a week, drug and alcohol three. So, it's not a program where you just hang out for a couple of months and move on. It's not a Band Aid approach. We look at the underlying problems that led to the homelessness and create long-term solutions."

For more information about Baldwin Family Village, visit www.baldwinfamilyvillage.org

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