ABCCM Wants to Transform More Lives

The Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry (ABCCM) is no longer satisfied with just offering just 43 beds for women and children in need and helping local veterans — AMCCM leaders now have a vision in mind to serve and help hundreds more.

The vision is the creation of a new, larger space that will serve the vastly growing number of women, children, veterans and men who are homeless. Currently, ABCCM offers The Steadfast House, a transitional home for women and children that only can serve about 43 beds, as well as veterans restoration quarters and the Hominy Valley Crisis Ministry.

With the homelessness needs only growing in Buncombe County, ABCCM is now building a space better suited to serve the families in need.

“[At the Steadfast House] we have a waiting list of over 300,” said ABCCM Director of Homless Services, Mary Sczudlo during a presentation at Biltmore Lake. “Two-thirds of them are women and one third are children. We don’t take teenage boys or single dads — think about what that number would have been if we did.”

The new, bigger space will be called “Transformation Village,” and it will place children and families in stable transitional housing, where they will gain tools to help them move to permanent housing on their own.

“It’s like Steadfast House on steroids,” said Sczudlo “It’s truly a place of hope.”

Transformation village will reside on a 24-acre site and will be comprised of 60 one-bedroom apartment units and 40 two-bedroom apartments, which have the flexibility to convert to three or four bedrooms when needed. In addition, the village will have 52 emergency shelter beds.

“Homelessness is one of the fastest growing populations,” Sczudlo said, adding that about half of the women who are homeless have been affected by domestic violent. “A lot of times it comes down to, ‘Do they get food for their kids to eat, or do they find shelter?”

Those who are staying at Transformation Village will not only have access to medical care and counseling, they will be assigned their own case manager and will also be taking life-skills classes such as budgeting and conflict resolution. In addition children will have access to an education center and a playground.

“The only way to break the cycle of homelessness is to help them deal with trauma, teach them life skills and job skills — but while they’re living with us, they pay nothing,” said Sczudlo, adding that their program sets a goal of each family saving up $3,000 in their bank account for when they leave. “That way they have a chance to make it.”

Sczudlo said the program to help families, which has been offered at Steadfast House, has proven to be successful.

“After 18 months, 85 percent of the people who leave are still in their apartment and halve their children,” said Sczudlo. “We put a lot of work into this.”

ABCCM is on a mission to raise the $5.5 million it will cost to complete Phase I of the village. Currently, it has raised $3.5 million, including nearly $900,000 in cash, and continues to garner support, but more support is needed to complete Phase I of the village by next year.

Currently, Asheville has one of the highest cost of living rates in the state, and Buncombe County has a less than 1 percent vacancy rate, which makes the Transformation Village a top priority for ABCCM.

“We know this works — we know we can change people’s lives if we can get the facility,” said Sczudlo. “This is our only change to break the cycles of homelessness. We’re not about handouts, we’re about hand ups.”

Donations for Transformation Village are needed and greatly appreciated. Pledges are being accepted over a period of years to build apartment units, beds, kitchens, bathrooms, living areas, porches, and more. There are also opportunities to pay for an area of Transformation Village to be built, and the area would be named after you.

Donors have already pledged funding to build the medical clinic, the courtyard, the children’s play area, the reception hall, a library and computer room, the vestibule, a library and computer room, a wooden playground and children’s play area furnishings.

However, there is still much more that is needed. Donations and pledges can be made online at www.ABCCM.org/donate.

“The population of homelessness is not getting better because jobs are not getting better,” said Sczudlo. “Money is temporary, but impacting lives is permanent.”

There is also the opportunity to support the cause by attending a Transformation Celebration fundraiser from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 16 at Covenant Community Church, located at 11 Rocket Way, Asheville. T

The event will include dinner, music provided by Asheville Music School and a silent auction with prizes such as vacation getaway packages, art, gift certificates, jewelry, home décor, spa experiences and more. For more information, contact Mary Sczudlo at 828-398-6603 ormary.sczudlo@abccm.org.

Tickets are $20 per person and can be purchased at https://app.moonclerk.com/pay/q6082gwencc.

For more information, email transformationvillage@abccm.org or campaign@abccm.org.

About Shelby Harrell
Shelby Harrell is the news editor of the Biltmore Beacon, editor of The Guide arts and entertainment publication and is a staff writer for Mountaineer Publishing. Originally from Asheville, she has worked in journalism for more than six years and currently lives in Clyde, NC.