Community leaders, housing advocates and corporate partners today celebrated the grand opening of “Gini’s House,” Liberation Programs’ new $7.2 million housing development for women who are overcoming substance abuse.
According to the Southwest Regional Mental Health Board, a lack of supportive housing is one of the biggest barriers for women with children and often jeopardizes their recovery from substance abuse. To address the shortage of supportive housing in Norwalk and the surrounding community, Liberation Programs has developed Gini’s House, a safe affordable-housing community for women and their children.
"Too many times I heard mothers with children tell me about having nowhere to go, no place to live, and their stories broke my heart,” said Debra Hertz, Ph.D., Liberation Programs chairperson. “I have to give credit to our president and CEO Alan Mathis. He had the vision to create this project, and through his leadership we found the support needed to get construction started. Those seven years of hard work and determination have paid off, as today we celebrate what we have been able to accomplish together, as a community, with the completion of Gini’s House.”
The newly renovated building, at 4 Elmcrest Terrace, contains 1 one-bedroom and 17 two-bedroom furnished apartments that include refrigerators, ranges and dishwashers that were provided courtesy of GE Capital. Gini’s House features security, a fitness center and a community room with computers and Internet access, as well as onsite case management and support services for residents such as connections to education, job training and employment assistance.
“Gini’s House provides a model program and safe housing for women and their children who need a helping hand,” said Gov. Dannel Malloy, who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house. “I applaud the hard work, dedication and support of all those involved in building this important community development that will help so many women rebuild their lives after facing difficult struggles.”
UnitedHealthcare, through a partnership with Enterprise Community Investment, Inc. (Enterprise), invested $5.4 million in Gini’s House through the use of Low Income Housing Tax Credits to help fund the $7.2 million community. The investment is part of an initiative by UnitedHealthcare to improve health by building affordable-housing communities with supportive services that help people who need assistance live healthier lives. The company has provided more than $150 million in funding to development projects throughout the United States, $77 million of which is in partnership with Enterprise.
“Gini’s House will create new opportunities, hope and a foundation of support for women and their families who will make this their home,” said Stephen Farrell, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of New England, a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) company. “We are grateful to be a partner in such an important project that will help so many women who need a helping hand.” UnitedHealth Group employs more than 4,000 people at four locations in Connecticut.
“Enterprise is a national organization that believes opportunity starts with a good home that you can afford. That's why we are proud to join UnitedHealthcare and all of our partners to bring this national model for providing housing and health care to women who are in greatest need of our help and support,” said Charlie Werhane, president and CEO of Enterprise Community Investment.
Additional funding partners for Gini’s House include the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), which provided a $2 million loan; Liberation Programs, which contributed $343,000 in private support; and the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through a $49,000 housing grant. New Neighborhoods, Inc. (NNI), a Fairfax County-based nonprofit developer, and Liberation Programs were the general co-partners. NNI now provides property management services for the development.
“New Neighborhoods welcomes and salutes the families who will now call Gini’s House their home,” said Ross Burkhardt, president & CEO of New Neighborhoods, Inc. “We feel honored to partner with Liberation Programs to turn our organizations’ shared vision – of safe, affordable and sustainable supportive homes where families can reclaim and rebuild their lives – into a reality.”
Enterprise Builders was the general contractor, which oversaw a complete redesign of the building to incorporate a new interior layout including an elevator, all new mechanical and electrical systems, roof replacement, new windows and exterior siding.
Gini’s House is named for Virginia Bantle, wife of Lou Bantle who passed away three years ago. His investment toward the project included the purchase of the building at 4 Elmcrest Terrace in Norwalk as well as making a sizable contribution, which enabled the agency to begin the project groundwork. Lou and Gini Bantle were the first to receive Liberation Programs’ Spirit of Hope Award for their extraordinary devotion and understanding of the disease of addiction and the possibility of recovery. Mr. Bantle’s staunch support of recovery services inspired the agency to allocate proceeds from the yearly Spirit of Hope benefit dinner towards the creation of Gini’s House.