FAIRHOPE, Ala. (WKRG) — The calling of any church is to help people in need. Members of Fairhope United Methodist Church have started on a new mission—helping homeless women and children with Baldwin County’s first transitional housing program. It is called the Baldwin Family Village. Dr. Darren McClellan talks to us about how the program will work.

Guest: It is a replication of the image of what is the Sybil Smith family Village, which is the agency of the Do Miss Wesley Community Center in Mobile. And what we recognize is that there are no such facilities for homelessness of its kind here in Baldwin County. And so we seek to remedy that as a as an existing need within our community.

Anchor: How did you determine there was a need for this type of facility in Baldwin County?

Guest: It was really born out of our own experience in the life of the church, recognizing there were more people that were coming to our doors and wanting to provide more of a comprehensive response to their need. More than just a hotel stay here or there or putting a Band-Aid on the situation, but really looking for some transformation in 2021. The Baldwin County School system reported that there were as many as 300 children without a home on any given night.

When we look at the statistics from the United Way that’s coming in right now in 2021, in the first six months of their 211 social service calls from January to June, of those 760 calls, 32% of those calls were related to homelessness. And those numbers are up even from last year. We see this statistically as a growing need as well as relationally to just the neighbors that we see every single day.

Anchor: So how do our perceptions of homelessness differ from reality? When somebody thinks of homelessness, they might think of a person panhandling or sleeping on the street. But what is the reality of someone who is considered homeless in Baldwin County?

Guest: What we recognize is that it has a lot of different faces when we think about the number of residents. Who is there? In Sybil Smith Family village and Mobile, for instance, 35% of those women and women with children were fleeing from some domestic violence situation. 24% of those may have grown up in a foster care system where they’ve never been independent. Another 17% couldn’t find reliable childcare

70% of the residents who live in Sybil Smith Family village right now were employed when they entered the program. So we’re really talking about working poor in many instances here, but at the very least we recognize that for so many, homelessness has a lot of different faces and it does not fit the typical stigma of someone who is not invested in their own life.

And that’s why I’m excited about this project as it is not a handout, it’s a hand-up. If you’re willing to invest in you, we’re willing to invest in you and lead it to a place of real transformation. And so when we look at the, at the scope of the impact that Sybil Smith family villages had in mobile and the effectiveness of their model, that’s really what we’re looking to bring to Baldwin County.

Anchor: Once operational, what will this place do?

Guest: Well, it will receive and create a safe environment for people to work on their own stories. They will be engaged in life skills, classes, whatever the obstacle is to their flourishing. That’s what we’ll be looking to engage in and so there will be a community element of what that is case management plans.

For more information on the Baldwin Family Village click here.