CSH paved the way for developing supportive housing dedicated to youth in Connecticut by providing several forms of financial, policy and technical assistance to fund three projects: Promise House, WYSH House and Careways.
The new apartment buildings are part of a Connecticut Department of Housing(DoH) initiative to curb youth homelessness.
A Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness report from the 2018 Youth Outreach and Count estimates over 5,000 youth under age 25 reported being homeless or unstably housed in Connecticut in January 2020.
Pilot Project Leads The Way
It all started when Carol Shomo, Executive Director of Youth Continuum Inc.(YCI) in New Haven, attended a CSH sponsored tour of New York city YASH projects in 2015 and was inspired to create a small YASH project in New Haven. Although a few housing units were set aside in other affordable and supportive housing projects, there was no dedicated, supportive housing development for young adults in Connecticut. There was also no specific funding allocated for such a project.
Encouraged by CSH staff along with a $25,000 grant and a $200,000 predevelopment loan from CSH, Youth Continuum applied to DOH’s omnibus FLEX program and received most of the funding for its Winchester project in New Haven. In February of 2019, the newly constructed building welcomed seven new young residents.
The funding of Winchester was from a variety of state and other sources, and the project took longer than hoped to come to fruition, but it also inspired CSH and the state to create a pool of funding for similar projects.
DoH Creates Housing Innovations Fund
In 2015, DoH issued a Request for Proposals for capital to construct four new YASH projects. In addition to the capital for construction, DoH also used a newly created program called the Homelessness Prevention and Response Fund (HPRF) administered by CSH, which would provide ongoing operating support for the projects. Finally, DoH set aside some of the capital for initial services grants to the projects. Altogether, DoH provided approximately $7.5 Million for the projects while the Connecticut Housing Finance Agency’s(CHFA) Housing Tax Credit Contributions program chipped in another $2 million.
With some funding from CHFA, CSH made a series of grants to service providers with experience with this population and contracted with a consultant to help them make solid proposals for the funding to DoH. In addition, CSH committed approximately $2 million to four different projects for acquisition and predevelopment expenses. Eventually, the DoH selected all four projects for funding.
Careways – 10 units
The first project to break ground was Careways, a rehabilitation of a property already owned by New Reach, a very experienced youth and family shelter provider and supportive housing developer based in New Haven. CSH had collaborated with New Reach on several other projects. Careways, located in a neighborhood away from the center of New Haven opened in the Spring of 2020.
WYSH House – 12 units
Women and Families Center(WFC), located in Meriden, completed a brand-new building close to the center of downtown, on land already owned by WFC. Its first residents moved in in May 2021. The property’s striking design with vibrant colors accenting the exterior brings a sense of possibility to the neighborhood and its residents.
Promise House – 13 units
Earlier this year, Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz officially opened Promise House, a beautiful new apartment complex for Homeless Young Adults in Manchester, CT. The 12 efficiency units include kitchens, a bath and a single room.
An additional unit will house a staff person acting as a resident assistant to provide off-hour support to complement CHR’s robust services offered at the project.
Heather Gates, President and CEO of CHR, addressed the assembled crowd at the opening ceremony. “From the very beginning, this project touched our hearts,” said Heather Gates, President and CEO of CHR, reflecting on the four-year journey from competing for funding from the state Department of Housing (DOH) to opening the doors next month.
“As a behavioral healthcare provider, we deeply appreciate that young adulthood is a pivotal time in life. We wanted Promise House to provide a welcoming, home-like environment and help to connect tenants with the services and tools they need to move forward with happy, healthy, and productive lives,” Gates said.
“We are extremely grateful to the Department of Housing for creating this opportunity to help young adults for years to come,” she added. Gates credited CSH staff with encouraging their agency to create supportive housing.
Designed for CHR by Paul B. Bailey Architect, LLC, and constructed by Neak Construction Company, Promise House includes:
- 12 efficiency apartments
- 13th apartment for Site Advisor
- Common areas for group activities, cooking classes, exercise, and more
- Home-like and welcoming design that complements the neighborhood
Gates stressed that Promise House is not a group home or a clinical facility. Tenants whose rents are subsidized through the CSH-administered HPRF program and other subsidies will sign a lease and have the same responsibilities and rights as any tenant. In addition, the leases are not time-restricted, and CHR’s staff will help each tenant gain the knowledge, income, and skills to move on to a healthy future safely.
Funding for Promise House comes from the state Department of Housing, committed to ending homelessness in Connecticut. Additional funding came from the Corporation for Supportive Housing and the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority/Housing Tax Credit Contributions. Operational funding comes from the state Departments of Housing and Mental Health and Addiction Services.
With the opening of Careways in 2020, CSH continued its work on this initiative by creating a Learning Collaborative for YASH projects. CSH has convened two meetings of existing and proposed YASH projects, working with DoH, CHFA, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and Children and Families. The purpose of the collaborative is to share learning and experience to ensure high-quality services in the high-quality housing created through the initiative. CSH was there at the beginning and will guarantee quality supportive housing for young adults experiencing homelessness in Connecticut for years to come.