Tuesday, June 28, 2016

ABCCM transforming the lives of homeless women and children

A transitional living facility that will eventually take hundreds of women, children and intact families off the streets of Asheville and Buncombe County is a step closer to reality. Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry announced on Wednesday, June 22, that it is close to funding the first phase of Transformation Village, the largest capital campaign in ABCCM’s history and one that will have a huge impact on the community.

Rev. Gerald Davis, the president of the ABCCM board of directors, announced during a press conference at the Hampton Inn Asheville I-26 Biltmore Area that the ministry has raised more than $2.6 million in cash and pledges for the campaign, the first phase of which is estimated to cost $5.5 million. Phase One of the project will triple ABCCM’s current capacity to house homeless women and children.

ABCCM is appealing to the community to help make Transformation Village a reality. Donations and pledges can be made online at www.ABCCM.org/donate. For more information, email transformationvillage@abccm.org or campaign@abccm.org.

“Transformation Village will offer shelter to homeless, to families, to single moms with children,” Davis said. “It is the fulfillment of a dream that initiated within our churches and has been a part of ABCCM since 2011. It is a joy that we’re able to announce today that we are almost 50 percent toward our goal of $5.5 million. We want to celebrate that and share this news with the community.”

Transformation Village – so named in recognition of the transformative impact it will have not only on the lives of its residents, but on the community as a whole – will provide homeless individuals and families a safe and secure living space and the tools they need to eventually move on and live self-sufficiently.

“Transformation Village is our vision of taking every child, woman and family off the street or out of a car,” said Reverend Scott Rogers, ABCCM’s executive director. “It will have a similar impact as the Veterans Restoration Quarters, which we founded in 2008 to take every male veteran off the street. We know what it is like to be able to say ‘Welcome Home’ to every homeless veteran. Our dream of removing the shame of homelessness for our veterans is now our dream for homeless children, women and families.”

The facility will be located on 24 acres of land near the interchange of Interstate 26 and Route 191 (Brevard Road), and across the street from the Asheville Outlets. ABCCM purchased the land in 2015.  The site provides easy access to the bus line, job opportunities, schools, A-B Tech, the Charles George VA Medical Center, Mission Hospital and Buncombe County Health and Human Services.

ABCCM currently operates Steadfast House, a 43-bed transitional living facility for homeless women and children, including 10 beds for female veterans. There is a waiting list of more than 300 women and children for Steadfast House vacancies. All Steadfast House residents will eventually move to Transformation Village.

Once the entire project is completed, there will be separate “neighborhoods” for intact families, women with children, female veterans, domestic violence survivors, and those recovering from addictions. The plan also calls for a community center, outdoor green space and play areas, on-site, training classrooms and a computer lab, and a commercial kitchen in which culinary classes will be conducted in partnership with A-B Tech.

A total of 60 one-bedroom units and 40 more two-bedroom units will be built with space for playgrounds, greenways and outdoor recreational activities. Apartment units will be clustered in neighborhoods of approximately 20 units each. The two-bedroom units have the flexibility to convert to three and even four bedrooms, depending on the size of the family unit.

ABCCM plans to build the facility in two or three phases depending on funding. The first phase will include a Community Training Center with a commercial kitchen and offices for volunteers and staff to offer stability, life skills training, employment training and permanent supportive housing. The building will also include 26 motel-sized rooms for single women. The first of five neighborhoods will be 20 two-bedroom apartment units for our moms with children. There will also be a medical clinic.

The second phase will build additional neighborhoods for veterans, survivors of domestic violence and intact families. A third phase will be evaluated based on the capacity needed to end homelessness for every child.

Male veterans will continue to be housed at the 246-bed Veterans Restoration Quarters in east Asheville. Transformation Village will mirror ABCCM’s successful programs at the Veterans Restoration Quarters and Steadfast House, which have an approximately 85 percent success rate for those who have completed the program. At Transformation Village, each single resident or family unit will be assigned a case manager to help them achieve their goals, and female veterans will have their own neighborhood in order to continue ABCCM’s commitment to end veteran homelessness.

“We want to take people who come to us in a place of crisis and homelessness, build up their self-confidence and give them the skills to get to a place of independence and security,” said Mary Sczudlo, ABCCM director of homeless services and strategic development officer. “This village will be a place of hope for all of them. It will be more than just a shelter. It will be a place where people will transform their lives.”

Transformation Village will follow the Housing First approach, which embraces stable, permanent housing as a primary strategy for ending homelessness. Housing will be in a safe community setting that will offer residents their own kitchen, internet access, in a home setting with supportive services that allows them long-term stays to pursue their goals and dreams while providing a home for their family.

Naming opportunities include the community center, buildings in each neighborhood, apartments, a computer classroom, gardens and playgrounds, a medical center and a culinary center.

“We are asking everyone to help build a strong community that ends homelessness for every child,” Rogers said. “Our city and county government leaders agree on one thing: we need more affordable and permanent supportive housing for our families. With less than a 1% vacancy rate in Buncombe County, we need a place for our families to thrive.”

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