SUNSET, S.C. (WSPA)- The controversy over a proposed group home for youth in Pickens County was on display at a press conference Thursday night.
Organizers and supporters said it will be a healthy place for troubled teens, but a woman who spent time at a New York facility called Freedom Village said that’s not true.
“The intent is to provide a Christian environment for the young people,” said Jonathan Bailie, who is the CFO and COO of the National Center for Life and Liberty. “Everything that will be done on property will follow the standards set by the Department of Social Services, those types of facilities.”
Freedom Village is partnering with the non-profit National Center for Life and Liberty to bring Hannah Grace Homes to Pickens County.
The National Center for Life and Liberty is a non-profit that runs group homes in several states. They bought the property for Hannah Grace Homes in Pickens County about two years ago, according to Bailie.
“We’re going to be a group home facility licensed under the Department of Social Services and we’re going to provide care for 12-17 year olds underneath that license here on the property,” Bailie said.
One of the men tapped to lead the home is Jeremy Brothers. He’s associated with Freedom Village.
Elizabeth Runge, who hosted the press conference Thursday, said she lived at Freedom Village from ages 15 to 17. She said Jeremy Brothers is the son of the founder of Freedom Village, Fletcher Brothers.
“Children are eventually brainwashed into believing that Fletcher and Jeremy have some sort of a direct connection with God that other people do not have,” Runge said. “Children believe that the Brothers can know their very thoughts.”
Another former resident said Fletcher Brothers was kind to her and that she got a lot out of her time at Freedom Village.
“It was definitely hard, but there was so much positive impact that I can say still affects me great today,” said Alaina Fugo, who lived there between the ages of 19 and 22.
Bailie said Hannah Grace Homes would be monitored by the Department of Social Services. He said their application is pending.
There are also reports of financial problems at Freedom Village.
Jeremy Runge declined to comment.
Several dozen people attended a press conference held by Runge Thursday, including many residents of the area. Some told 7 News they were uncomfortable about the association with Freedom Village.
Others said they want to wait and see what DSS decides.