Liberation Programs has been providing substance abuse addiction treatment and mental health services to low-income residents in Connecticut’s Fairfield County since the early 1970s. One of its focus areas has been serving pregnant and parenting women.

The nonprofit noticed that after months of in-patient rehab, many of their clients became homeless. “We thought wouldn’t it be awesome to get a family with a head of household with problems into treatment and into housing and be with them for the long run and help them climb the ladder of success,” says Alan Mathis, president and CEO of Liberation Programs.

“We very much support the notion of housing being integral to organizing a person’s life,” he adds. “The worst thing you can do is have a bunch of problems and then have no housing on top of that. It’s pretty intolerable.”

Gini's House in Norwalk, Ct., features 18 one- and two-bedroom furnished units for at-risk women and their children.
Courtesy Liberation Programs Gini's House in Norwalk, Ct., features 18 one- and two-bedroom furnished units for at-risk women and their children.

That goal became a reality in July when the 18-unit Gini’s House opened in Norwalk, Conn. The development is providing safe housing and supportive services for women and their families. Most of the residents are single heads of household who were homeless or at risk of homelessness and their families.

“In July, we rented up the apartments, and it was very bittersweet. We’re very happy to have 18 families move into fully furnished units,” says Mathis. “We’re also sad. People lined up as early as 7 a.m. to get on the list for an apartment. Right now we have a waiting list of 200 people. What it did show us was that there is such a great need in this community for people to find a safe place to call home.”

Liberation Programs partnered with nonprofit developer New Neighborhoods, based in Stamford, to redevelop a former skilled nursing facility into one one-bedroom and 17 two-bedroom units.

Gini’s House is named after Virginia Bantle, the wife of the late local businessman Lou Bantle who helped Liberation Programs get the project off the ground and provided financial support. Bantle and his company helped purchase the building in the 1990s, but the lack of capital left the building in disrepair until the state began to prioritize supportive housing projects again in the late 2000s.

The $7.2 million development was financed primarily with $5.4 million in low-income housing tax credit equity. UnitedHealthcare was the investor, and Enterprise Community Investment was the syndicator.

Additional funding partners included the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, which provided a $2 million loan; Liberation Programs, which contributed $343,000 in private support; and the Department of Housing and Urban Development through a $49,000 housing grant. GE Capital also provided refrigerators, ranges, and dishwashers for the units.