Hancock Human Resource Agency to operate new shelter for foster children
By Cassandra Favre
Jan 10, 2014, 17:43
Hancock County Board of Supervisors' President Lisa Cowand on Tuesday announced that the Hancock County Human Resource Agency (HCHRA) will assume operations of the county's emergency shelter for foster children.
Lora Mederos, executive director of HCHRA, will be the director of the program, Cowand said.
The HCHRA has five pre-school and youth development programs: The Hancock County Child Development Center in Bay St. Louis, Early Education Center in Waveland and programs located next to the South, West and North Hancock elementary schools.
The agency also operates the Senior Citizens Center on Bookter Street in Bay St. Louis and delivers hot meals to home-bound senior citizens in the county.
"We got Lora involved because of her experience in this area," Cowand said. "Renovations are still under way at the shelter and moving along nicely.
"We are looking for an opening near the end of February, beginning of March."
Cowand said she wants the shelter to be a "feel-good" kind of place for the children.
"The majority of times, they leave the house in the middle of the night without anything," Cowand said. "We want to make them forget why they are here, even if just for a second."
"We are very excited about this opportunity," Mederos said Thursday. "I feel like our agency has the ability to do this extended year round program. It's a perfect fit for HCHRA."
According to Mederos, the facility will house up to eight children, ages birth to 17, on a temporary basis. Mederos said the anticipated stay average is between 30 and 45 days.
"We are in the process of hiring staff now for the shelter," Mederos said. "There will be staff there and an on-call social worker, 24/7.
"There will be two full-time HCHRA staff, three full-time county staff shift managers and about 10-15 part-timers who will be used as back-ups."
Mederos said volunteers are welcome also.
"The shelter staff and I will spend the next month visiting similar facilities in Harrison and Forrest counties," Mederos said. "We will also be seeking out formal CPR, first aid, grievance and early childhood training.
"I feel strongly that the entire community will embrace this shelter."
Mederos said she has plans to find sponsors to host monthly pizza parties, field trips and events like monthly birthday parties.
"We just want to keep these children safe, happy and healthy," Mederos said.
In June 2013, the county purchased the house and property for $172,000, according to then-Hancock County attorney Ronnie Artigues.
Hope Haven Director Terry Latham said in August that after Katrina, Hope Haven shut down its shelter.
Latham stressed the need for a local shelter to county supervisors, stating that there are about 300-plus children in foster care in Hancock County and the majority of them are sent out of the county, away from their homes and schools.
Latham said he is delighted Mederos was chosen for the job.
"The board of supervisors couldn't have picked a better person to run it," Latham said. "Mederos is an ex-social worker and has all the practical experience to run this shelter.
"She has access to a fully-trained staff at her fingertips whom I know will take good care of the children."
Latham said that Hope Haven has pledged to make the shelter a real home for the children in foster care.
"We plan to raise funds," Latham said. "We will also accept donations in the form of clothing, personal items, toys, school supplies and playground equipment.
"We're going to change 'three hots and a cot' to a real home."
If you are interested in donating to the shelter, contact Terry Latham at 228-466-6395.
If you are interested in volunteering at the shelter, contact Lora Mederos at 228-467-8050, ext. 13, or 228-216-0249.