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Renovations continue on new low income housing

Date: 3/18/2009

By Lori Szepelak


HOLYOKE -- Renovation deadlines are on schedule for the city's latest permanent housing opportunity, according to Karen Blanchard, administrator, Providence Ministries for the Needy Inc. (PMN).

As one chapter of the legacy of the Sisters of Providence came to an end in February with the closing of the Broderick House family shelter due to the loss of a state contract, another door opened. In the coming weeks, the Broderick House will be transformed into units to support sober congregate housing for single, low income men and women.

"Providence Ministries would like to assure the community that all of the families housed within the program were transitioned to site apartments throughout Hampden County and Hampshire County via the Department of Transitional Assistance," Blanchard said during a recent interview.

The Broderick House program was begun by Sister Margaret McCleary of the Sisters of Providence in 1981 to fill a need within the community for homeless families in crisis. In the mid-1980s, PMN secured a contract with the state to offer vital services to those most in need.

"It truly is an end of an era for the Ministries and the community," Blanchard, said, adding, "We are truly saddened by the closing."

Despite the sadness that the PMN staff experienced, Blanchard has now turned her attention to creating an SRO (single room occupancy) opportunity in its place.

"It will be permanent supportive sober housing for single low income men and women," she said.

During a recent lunch time stop at the future SRO site, Cano Valentin was knee-deep in Sheetrock, nails and buckets of demolition materials as renovations continue to meet a spring deadline. Valentin oversees maintenance duties at PMN.

"We are hoping to have most units available by April 1," Christine Burns, who will share management duties of the site with Jeff Langlois, program director of PMN's Loreto House, said. Burns also oversees development and special projects at PMN.

All rooms at the Broderick House are receiving a facelift and new furniture is being purchased. Additionally, roof repairs are among the updates planned for the building.

"We will also have our handicapped ramp and some other construction work completed at cost thanks to a partnership with YouthBuild, a program of Nueva Esperanza," Burns said.

Blanchard estimates that the bulk of the renovations will be in the $225,000 range, mostly paid by grants.

"In years past there were a lot of rooming houses which were inexpensive options for single people," Blanchard said. "These have long since gone mostly by the wayside and this gap has existed for a long time. Sober housing for individuals in recovery is scarce; a safe, sober living environment helps people long-term and there are less than two dozen units in all of Western Massachusetts."

The Broderick House will feature 18 furnished rooms and two efficiency units. The efficiency units include private bath, mini refrigerator and microwave oven. All rents are based on the size of the unit with rates starting at $400 and topping off at $650 for efficiencies. The rent fee includes all utilities, with shared common living rooms with cable TV and fully equipped kitchens. A coin-op laundry is also available on-site.

"Volunteers are also needed to help paint, clean and upgrade the facility before its reopening," she added.

Applicants must be able to provide proof of sobriety and income, according to Blanchard. A weekly open AA meeting is conveniently located next to the Broderick House.

Applications are now being accepted for the Broderick House units and inquiries can be made by calling Burns at 536-9109 or Langlois at 533-5909.

Blanchard noted that PMN also offers Kate s Kitchen, Margaret's Pantry, St. Jude's Used Clothing Center and St. Jude's Used Furniture Store, and welcomes donations of clothing and food seven days a week at Kate's Kitchen, 51 Hamilton St. Furniture donations may be arranged by calling the main office.