Shelter for abused children to open in Hancock County

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Hancock County is about to open a new home for abused and neglected children. The county has been without a temporary shelter since Hope Haven closed a few years ago. County leaders say the shelter is desperately needed.

After renovations and modifications are made to a five bedroom house, it will become a safe haven for children the Department of Human Services says should not be with their parents.

"It's one thing to have to be taken away from your parents. But to be put in a whole new situation out of county and nothing familiar to you, I just can't imagine what these poor angels are going through," said Board of Supervisors President Lisa Cowand. "So it's our goal to make this home a very special place with a wonderful back yard that maybe for a split second when they walk in they will forget why they are there and why they have been taken away from their parents."

Child advocates say, unfortunately, more and more children are in need.

"The incidents of children abuse and neglect on the Gulf Coast has increased a staggering 300 percent since Hurricane Katrina. Today in Hancock County, we're just shy of 300 children in custody of the Department of Human Services. Prior to Katrina, we averaged about 85 or 90," explained Terry Latham, Director of Hope Haven Children Services.

Another goal of the home is to keep children in their hometown. County leaders will look to volunteers and the business community to help run and financially support the facility.

"We want buy in from the community. We want the rotary clubs involved, we want the chamber involved, we want Coast Electric, and the Mississippi Powers, and the Wellmans, everyone," Cowand said.

County leaders say they hope to have the facility up and running before the end of the year.

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