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Wallingford shelter units help families in need

WALLINGFORD — After falling on hard times, Maigan Fournier needed help. A mother of two and recently divorced, she also suffered brain trauma in a car accident less than a year ago.

Fournier, 30, formerly of East Haven, was without a job and a home and was getting by with the help of friends. While staying with a friend in town earlier this summer, she noticed the Martin B. Rubin Family Center, two units of transitional housing behind the Wallingford Emergency Shelter on Quinnipiac Street. The duplex apartments are an extension of the shelter, which provides housing and meals during the winter. They were built two years ago with private money.

Less than a week after applying, Fournier and her children were accepted into one of the units.

“I feel like my whole life is starting over again,” she said.

Clients can stay in the transitional housing at no cost for up to four months.

“We assess the level of need,” said Sarah Dolski, shelter case manager. “We look at things like employment, income and work history.”

The point, Dolski said, “is to help them get back on their feet. Everyone needs some help from time to time.”

As a case manager, Dolski helps clients apply for jobs and other social services. She also helps them create spending plans so they can save money for permanent housing.

After her car accident and brain trauma, Fournier could no longer handle her demanding corporate job, she said. On the day she moved into transitional housing she took a job as a day care teacher. Fournier doesn’t have a car and relies on rides from friends.

Fournier gives Dolski $100 a week to put aside so she can move out on her own.

“It’s a really good feeling,” she said.

Her children, Victor, 8, and Amilia, 5, love the area. They attend a nearby church and play on the green near the train station.

“It’s very nice here,” Fournier said. “I like this town. It feels like I’m in another state.”

Dolski said she previously worked at the third largest homeless shelter in Chicago before moving to Meriden and joining the Wallingford Emergency Shelter’s board of directors. When the previous case manager retired, Dolski stepped in. She has been on the job for just over a month, and finds it “more rewarding than difficult.”

“I’m thankful the town has provided these resources,” she said.

A single mother and her daughter, formerly of Meriden, live in the other transitional apartment. The mother, who didn’t want her name used, said she needed help after changing jobs and having car problems.

The housing unit is named after Martin Rubin, a Wallingford resident who volunteered for many causes, including the emergency shelter. His daughter, Stephanie Rubin, joined the shelter board after her father died five years ago.

“I’ve been working with the board ... raising money and putting the two units together,” Rubin said.

Two additional units are planned.

“It’s time to meet the needs of the community,” Rubin said.

The shelter has already started raising money to begin construction on the new units, to be called the “Fred Ulbrich Jr. Family Center.”

Ulbrich ran Ulbrich Stainless Steels & Special Metals and donated to numerous community organizations. After he died, his son, Chris Ulbrich, approached the shelter and offered a matching $50,000 donation.

If the shelter raises $50,000, Ulbrich Stainless Steels & Special Metals will donate another $50,000. So far, the shelter has raised about $40,000.

Construction of the additional units is estimated to cost between $100,000 and $150,000. (203) 317-2224 Twitter: @Andyragz

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