The city of New Britain presented the Friendship Service Center with a check to support the new Day Center that is currently underway.
The $81,000 check will be used for “the build-out of a new homeless individuals’ day center on Arch Street,” Mayor Erin Stewart said. The space will be completed in July and will be an expansion to the current Triage Center.
The current Triage Center, located at the Friendship Service Center’s old HRA building at 57 Arch Street, began in response to the severe cold weather protocol, but the space was not equipped with plumbing. The new space is.
“We’re hoping to be able to knock down walls to combine the two spaces and make it a larger space,” said Caitlin Rose, executive director of The Friendship Center.
Demolition started for the space at the end of December and construction is now underway. North Atlantic States Regional Carpenters Union will complete the carpentry and students from EC Goodwin Technical School will be doing the plumbing and electrical work for the space.
The Day Center will provide those facing homelessness with a place to eat, utilize bathroom and shower facilities, as well as do laundry, receive direct services and referrals and meet with case managers.
“I think it’s really exciting as a service provider,” Rose said. “We won’t eliminate the pathway to 2-1-1; we’ll take that administrative burden. So, we as providers can get them enrolled in the 2-1-1 database so that we can do the assessment for them. They’re not going to have to wait on hold or go somewhere else for the assessment. We’ll be able to do all of that in house, so it really is as easy as a community partner seeing someone on the street and offering a referral, walking them over and doing a warm handoff and we’ll take it from there.”
The Day Center will not be open 24 hours but will be open for set business hours seven days a week all year round. Accessibility will be contingent upon funding, staffing and partnerships.
“Not including build-out, just operating, we’re looking at about $150,000, so we’re piecemealing grants and donations,” Rose said. “To have qualified staff to be able to man a space of this size and inviting people in regardless of what they’re experiencing we need to make sure that we have folks that are trained and ready to be able to manage any type of situation.”
The $81,000 contribution was made possible through a grant applied for by NB Recovers.
“This is not just New Britain,” Pastor Jane Rowe said. “This is the Coordinated Access Network, five towns that are all part of this, so we are looking for funding from that source. We’re looking for business partners; we’re looking for individuals who donate grants; we’re looking for a variety of sources to put together the ongoing program costs.”
The idea of a Day Center to serve people experiencing homelessness was conceived through a series of meetings of community partners including the City of New Britain, the Friendship Service Center, South Church, the New Britain Police Department, the Downtown District, the Hospital of Central Connecticut, New Life 2 and Neighborhood Housing Services.
“We’ve been talking about something like this not just for years, for literally decades, long before my time as mayor,” Stewart said. “So to see the Friendship Service Center make the commitment, to see the many community partners who want to come in and be a part of making this happen really is the true definition of a community collaboration that is all for giving back and helping those who need it the most. I think it’ a beautiful thing and I think we have to make sure that we sustain it.”
Those who would like to donate can click on the DONATE link and indicate they would like it to go to the Day Center, or they can drop off a check at 85 Arch Street.
“I’m really excited about the project; it’s something we’ve needed for a long time,” Alderman Alden Russell. “I believe we need programs as well that will guide people in the right direction and help them through the process. I think the city has come a long way and I’m excited to see it done.”