Soromundi Commons Project In Hartford Is Starting To Fill Up
July 27, 2005
BY SUSAN KANIA, SPECIAL TO THE COURANT
Catherine Sziabowski Ringquist has endured battles with drug
and alcohol addiction and life in homeless shelters and transitional
housing. But having been clean and sober for three years, she's
ready for a new beginning in a home of her own at the YWCA of
Greater Hartford's new Soromundi Commons supportive housing complex.
Ringquist, 49, who has been widowed
twice, will be one of the first residents at the complex when she
moves into one of its 35 furnished one-bedroom apartments today.
"It took a while for me to believe that if I do the right thing
in life, I will be rewarded," Ringquist said. But now she can
almost taste the turkey, and Polish food such as pierogi and golabki
she'll cook when she invites her family for holidays in her new apartment,
with its wide windows and stunning city views. She can't wait to
bake cookies with her 7-year-old granddaughter, Caitlin Elise Cruz,
and to decorate the apartment's bright white walls with a colorful
Spanish fan and baby pictures of her children and grandchildren.
At a dedication of the housing complex Tuesday, Hartford Mayor Eddie
A. Perez said it meshed well with his 10-year plan to end chronic
homelessness in Hartford.
"Homelessness is a problem that must be addressed one individual
at a time," said Deborah Ullman, executive director of the YWCA
of Greater Hartford. "Each person has their own story and history
that must be dealt with on an individual basis for their recovery."
Soromundi Commons - Soromundi
means "sisters of the world" -
was created through a partnership of the YWCA of Greater Hartford
and the Chrysalis Center of Connecticut after a yearlong renovation
of the YWCA's old housing at 135 Broad St. in Hartford. It is the
first project to be completed in the Connecticut Supportive Housing
PILOTS Initiative, a statewide effort involving many agencies to
create affordable housing and support services for people facing
homelessness, often due to problems such as mental illness or substance
The housing complex in Hartford has a 23-bed emergency shelter for
women; 13 efficiency apartments for single men or women making the
transition from homelessness, or treatment for mental illness or
substance abuse; and 35 one-bedroom apartments for low-income individuals
at risk of becoming homeless. All the apartments are expected to
be filled by late August with individuals on state housing waiting
lists who meet low-income guidelines and undergo an interview and
The total development cost of Soromundi Commons was $9.5 million,
with a mix of public and private funding: It includes a $4.3 million
loan from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority; $4.1 million
from the sale of low-income housing tax credits to the Enterprise
Social Investment Corp.; $950,000 for support of the women's shelter
from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving; state Department
of Social Services bond funds and city of Hartford community development
block grants; and additional funds for services from the state Department
of Mental Health and Addiction Services and other agencies.
Ringquist said she plans to take advantage of the many services
provided by the Chrysalis Center, such as job and life skills training.
She will attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the community learning
center, where she will also sharpen her keyboarding and Internet
skills on its eight computers and begin taking classes toward her
goal of earning a GED.
Pauline Santos Echols, 29, a former
resident of the YWCA housing before the renovation began, said
the new supportive housing complex "looks
amazing," from its larger apartments and double-occupancy shelter
rooms to the modern lobby, laundry and 24-hour security monitors.
Life has moved fast for Echols over the past few years as she's
dealt with domestic violence in a previous relationship, married
and separated and gave birth to her son Winston, now 1 - while working
full time as a manager at a fast food restaurant.
Echols said she is looking forward to signing her lease for a one-bedroom
apartment at Soromundi Commons, where she will be moving soon with
Winston. She hopes it will be a steppingstone to one day owning her
"This will give me an opportunity to get my life together while
living in decent, affordable housing," she said. "It's
tough out there, paying for rent, day care, Pampers, and clothes,
even for people with full-time jobs."
For information about Soromundi Commons, call 860-727-8094. For
information about the shelter, call the same number and ask for ext.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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