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New Use For YWCA

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New Use For YWCA


Courant Staff Writer | July 5 2004

The YWCA's brick tower on Broad Street is being revamped for a new supportive housing complex for women who have been abused or are facing homelessness, drug addiction and other problems.

Named Soromundi Commons, the new facility is a collaborative project of the YWCA of the Hartford Region and the Chrysalis Center, a private, nonprofit health care agency.

Along with transitional, shelter and permanent housing, the new complex will offer support services in education, health care, employment, basic life skills and recovery.

Sharon Castelli, executive director of the Chrysalis Center, said this type of supportive housing not only gives the women it serves a safe and decent place to live, it provides them with hope for the future.

"This is a very disenfranchised group of people," said Castelli. "If you offer more complete services vs. fragmented services, people can work on whatever they need to in their lives to get on to more independent living."

Soromundi, which means sisters of the world, eventually will serve up to 71 women. The first floor will house offices for the property manager and the case managers. There will also be an employment specialist, a doctor's office, a community room and a lounge with a computer center. The second floor will house the YWCA 12-bed emergency shelter and the third floor will contain 13 transitional efficiency apartments. Floors four to eight will hold one-bedroom apartments intended for permanent housing. Other space in the building will hold YWCA offices, teen programs and a sexual assault crisis program. The YWCA pool and health club area is closed and will remain so until the board of directors decides what to do with the space.

Jacqueline Majors-Myles, executive director of the YWCA, said the collaboration with Chrysalis would enhance the services the YWCA has always offered to women in need.

"We are no longer the service provider; Chrysalis has taken over that role," she said. "They bring a greater breadth and depth of experience in dealing with the type of populations that we will be servicing."

Public and private funding was obtained for Soromundi Commons, which has a total development cost of $9.5 million. The Connecticut Housing and Finance Authority provided a $4.1 million loan and $4.3 million was raised from the sale of low-income housing tax credits to the Enterprise Social Corp. The remaining money, which will fund the facility's shelter, was received from The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving; the Department of Social Services bond funds; and the Hartford Community Development Block Grant program.

Sandra Redding came to live at the YWCA during the 1990s in the midst of her battle with drug addiction. At the time, she said the YWCA offered a safe place to live and counseling through the sexual assault crisis center. Redding needed both, she said, but she also needed resources that would teach her to live a better life. The services offered by the new facility will help prepare the women it serves to be more independent and responsible, said Redding.

"By Chrysalis taking over, a lot of resources will be in-house," said Redding, who now has her own apartment in Hartford. "I think it's a wonderful opportunity for those who really want to get the help they need."

From The Hartford Courant

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