Homeless young adults in Westfield get new home

(courtesy: The Westfield News)

WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – The oldest house on Broad Street has new residents.

Domus on Broad St. in Westfield
Exterior of the Pur House project by Domus on Broad St. in Westfield. (Photo by Lynn Boscher/The Westfield News)

Domus, Inc., a nonprofit affordable housing developer based in Westfield, has remodeled 48 Broad St., which used to be an American Red Cross building and is the oldest house on the street, making it a place for homeless young adults to be able to stay, learn and adjust to new ways of living.

“Our goal is to get them independent,” Catherine Tansey, social worker at Westfield High School and associate to Domus, said. “These are kids who, through no fault of their own, became homeless.”

Tansey said that many of the young adults, who will range from ages 18 to 24, have become homeless through abandonment, family issues or crime. And so far, all of them have come through Westfield high schools.

“Kids would come into school and say they don’t have a place to live and that they haven’t had one for three months,” Tansey said. “There’s a lot of shame and grief about it.”

The building was converted into 10 efficiency-style apartments, with each apartment consisting of a living space, kitchenette and a bathroom with a shower. Other portions of the building were turned into communal living spaces, an apartment for the on-site residence manager, laundry rooms, a dining room and a kitchen. Domus also installed several security cameras, in order to reduce any potential issues.

Additionally, the facility will be alcohol-, drug- and tobacco-free, and will not allow overnight visitors. However, tenants may have visitors during the day and evening.

“We want to provide a safe, secure environment with independent living, but also with a program of guidance and protection,” Ann Lentini, director of Domus, said.

Lentini said that in addition to housing, Domus will provide tenants with mentors and programs to help teach residents about various responsibilities, including balancing a checkbook and renting an apartment.

Also, the YMCA of Westfield gave each new resident a one-year membership to their facilities.

And if any resident has mental health or substance abuse issues, The Carson Center for Human Services will be providing assistance, as well.

The building, which is the oldest on Broad Street and one of the oldest in the city, was originally erected in 1830. After a series of individuals and families owning the building, the American Red Cross purchased it in 1945. After a 68-year occupation of the building, the American Red Cross left, leaving the place vacant. After about a year, Domus purchased the building in 2014.

“We looked at a number of properties and were never happy until we saw this place,” Lentini said of the building.

In Aug. 2015, Domus began construction of the innards of the building, as well as rebuilding the outside. Then, on June 29, 2016, the building was completed and opened. The building was dedicated to Ray Broderick, longtime principal of Westfield High School and child advocate, who retired from his position in 2013.

According to Lentini, the total cost of the building was $1.5 million. Of that total, just $280,000 came from city accounts. The rest was procured by Domus through a variety of grants and other funding.

“It’s always great when we can kill two birds with one stone,” Ward 2 City Councilor Ralph Figy said. “Saving historical buildings and helping youths in need.”

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