TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- After 40 years of service to boys across North Mississippi, Alpha House has announced it will close.
During a news conference on Monday, officials with the home said the board of directors made the decision to end operations on March 31, 2013.
"It is with much regret that we are closing," commented founder and longtime director Jerry Clayton. "After much deliberation, the board of directors met December 4, and voted to close the Alpha House. This was a difficult decision for the board and officers to make, but it seems under the current circumstances it was our only avenue."
Clayton opened Alpha House in 1972.
He said the way children are placed for care now has diminished the need for Alpha House.
Group homes are seeing fewer children referred by the Mississippi Department of Human Services because relatives and foster home placement now take precedence before group homes.
"This is not just an Alpha House or Lee County issue," Clayton commented. "It is happening throughout the state, primarily due to regulatory changes. Fundraising has also been more difficult due to the increase in non-profit agencies in North Mississippi."
"Because of the change in regulations, Alpha House is not the viable alternative that it once was," commented Rayburn Parks, president of the home's board of directors. "These regulations have caused expensive changes over the 40-year life of Alpha House."
The four residents remaining at Alpha House will be placed in appropriate care. The house itself is owned by Lee County and will be used for other purposes. "It is with much hope and prayer that the void the Alpha House will make in the community by its closing can be filled by other organizations and services," Parks explained. "The Alpha House has been a refuge for young men in need from all over the state of Mississippi."
During Monday's announcement, Clayton thanked the Lee County Board of Supervisors for its tremendous support through the years as well as the many individuals and organizations who have donated their money and time to support the home.
Clayton, who has served as the home's director since its opening in 1972, also announced his retirement upon the home's closure.
In 1969, while Clayton was serving as Lee County chancery clerk, he was appointed Youth Court referee. After investigating a case involving two brothers who had run away from extremely poor home conditions, Clayton developed the idea of a facility to care for young men in this situation and for those who simply had no place to live.
After much work and research, Clayton applied for funds to finance an appropriate facility. In 1972, the concept of the Alpha House became a reality. Since that time, Alpha House has served approximately 1,000 young men. Some of them have stayed a short time while others have resided there three or four years.