County purchases shelter for foster children
By Cassandra Favre
Aug 28, 2013, 14:04
By Cassandra Favre
The abused and neglected children of Hancock County are about to receive a big gift from the Board of Supervisors.
County officials are preparing to open an emergency shelter for foster children who are taken out of dangerous situations.
"Due to state foster home regulations, we closed our shelter in Oct. 2010," Hope Haven Director Terry Latham said. "Before Katrina there was about 85 to 90 children in foster care.
"There are now about 300 in Hancock County."
"85 percent of the children under the care of the Department of Human Services are sent out of Hancock County," Latham said. "They are among strangers and far away from home.
"Their biggest constant is their school, one of the things they can hang on to and that is taken away from them too."
According to Latham, taking the children out of Hancock County also has an economic impact.
"The Bay-Waveland and Hancock schools have lost about 1.5 million in federal funds because of children living out of the county," Latham said. "The dollars follow the children."
In 2011, Latham approached the board of supervisors and discussed re-opening an emergency shelter in Hancock County.
"Lisa Cowand saw the need for this shelter and that state regulations made it impossible for Hope Haven to do it," Latham said.
"I'm overjoyed and proud that the Board of Supervisors have bought the shelter and we look forward to working with them," Latham said.
"The board acquired this property to create a youth shelter for those with no where to go," Board Attorney Ronnie Artigues said. "They are taken out of homes by DHS and foster homes are full.
"We need to get these children out of harm's way."
According to Artigues, the County purchased the house and property on June 19 for $172,000.
"A lot of the inspections have been done pro-bono by White Construction, Compton Engineering and I've done the legal part," Artigues said. "The house will also be modified to be more kid-friendly.
"It will not house more than a few children at a time, this is an as needed shelter until something more permanent is available."
"The shelter will have to be county owned and maintained," Artigues said. "We have to have this immediate safe haven for children who are in dangerous and bad situations."
"I know some of our county officials were upset about budget cuts, but we have a shelter to run now," Board of Supervisors President Lisa Cowand said. " Abuse is happening, the focus is on the children now.
"There are over 200 children in foster care in this county, we need this."
According to Cowand, the shelter will be staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The house will hold six to eight children at a time. There is also a running list of volunteers.
"We want everybody to buy into this shelter," Cowand said. "I want these children to look at this shelter and backyard and forget they were torn away from their parents.
Cowand said the home has five bedrooms and a large backyard. There are plans to install cribs, bunk beds and built-in furniture.
"Our goal is to have the shelter up and running by January," Cowand said.