MERIDEN — Housing for homeless youth now under construction on Colony Street is expected to be completed by mid-November.
Wayne Valaitis, chief executive officer of the Women and Families Center, said screening for tenants of WYSH house — a $4.8 million project — has begun through DeMarco Management Corp. The 12-unit apartment building on the site of the former WFC Annex, will provide housing for homeless youths between ages of 18 and 24 at the time of entry.
WYSH stands for Women and Families Center Youth Supportive Housing.
“The original date of turning it over was set for Nov. 6, and it’s 10 days behind so it’ll be sometime mid-November,” Valaitis said. “The property manager will be starting to do screening through the Coordinated Access Network through 211 Infoline. They have to be homeless or experience housing insecurity. They have to go through an eligibility process, and be eligible for a housing voucher.”
WYSH house was funded through a $3.5 million grant from the state Department of Housing, $500,000 in housing tax credits issued by the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority and bought by Eversource, and an additional $200,000 in housing tax credits, again sold to Eversource, and a $600,000 loan. Montagno Construction is the general contractor on the job.
The Women and Families Center also runs Robyn’s House onsite which provides supported living services for young adults for 18 months. Both programs will be operational but WYSH house would allow for more permanent housing.
According to a 2015 Youth Count study conducted by the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness and other state agencies, homeless youth are “those who have no secure ‘rights of tenancy’ — for themselves or through a parent/guardian — including those living in shelters, transitional housing programs, couch surfing, doubled up, hotel or motels, in parks, on the streets in cars, abandoned buildings, or other places not fit for human habitation.” The study identified more than 3,000 homeless youth in the state of Connecticut.
An updated 2018 Youth Count study found that a third of those in need of housing had Department of Children and Families/foster care involvement and 20 percent had criminal justice involvement. About 40 percent said they could not stay where they were as long as they needed while 22% said the place they were staying was unsafe. Slightly more than 37% identified as black and 36.4% identified as Hispanic, 18.6% of respondents were pregnant or parenting, 11.8% identified as bisexual and 6.1% identified as gay or lesbian.
Nearly three-quarters of the youth that were homeless or housing unstable said they did not seek shelter.
The permanent nature of the housing is important because other forms of housing, such as Transitional Living Programs limit enrollment to 18 months, said Roy E. Graham, youth special projects coordinator for the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.
“I know personally from working with youth experiencing homelessness in the Meriden area that many of them have traveled from Berlin, New Britain, Southington and other areas throughout central Connecticut seeking assistance,” Graham stated in an e-mail.
“The WYSH house is also located near bus lines and the train station for easy access to other nearby towns such as Wallingford and Middletown which will provide more opportunities for added supports such as mental health services, employment and education.”
To learn more about the WYSH house project go to womenfamilies.org or call the Meriden office at 203-235-9297. To support the project by purchasing a personalized brick for the WYSH house Walkway of Hope go to www.bricksrus.com/donorsite/wyshhouse.