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Community generosity ‘uplifting’ for housing group

WESTERLY — After seven months of planning and work, Family Housing Support has a reason to celebrate. A movement that started as an unorganized group of people who had concerns about homeless families is now seeing a homeless family move into the group’s first emergency apartment.

“This is our moment of celebrating,” said the Rev. Dr. James R. Glenn III, the senior pastor of Dunn’s Corners Community Church and one of the group’s founders, at Monday’s celebration at the church.

The family, a mother with two children aged 4 and 7, was expected to move in today. Originally from Westerly, the mother is earning a college degree.

Ideally, the apartment will be able to house four families a year for about 90 days each while a more stable solution to their housing problems can be found. The apartment is expected to cost about $17,000 in the first year. Rent, utilities and insurance will be about $8,900, and another $8,300 will be spent on case management, supervision, apartment maintenance, administration, and payroll taxes. The group has raised about $26,000 to date.

Family Housing Support is providing the funds, and educating the community on homelessness issues. The apartment will be administered by the WARM Center, a 19-bed emergency shelter and soup kitchen.

Joe Carr, who co-chairs Family Housing Support’s steering committee with Tara DiMuccio, marveled at how much the group has achieved.

“We’ve been able to accomplish quite a bit,” he told the crowd of about 20 people. Those accomplishments, he said, are due to the collaboration of many different faith communities in the towns of Westerly, Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton, as well as several civic organizations.

Carr thanked the diverse donors who contributed to the apartment, from people who donated pocket change to those who offered substantial gifts.

“There is incredible generosity in this community,” he said.

DiMuccio noted that Family Housing Support was not just a chore for the volunteers.

“At each project along the way, I laughed and had more fun,” she said. “There was a friendliness that developed.”

Lorraine Michaud, part of the 12-member steering committee, told a story that illustrated the community’s generosity, which she called “uplifting.” While shopping at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore to furnish the apartment, Michaud said she talked about Family Housing Support with other people in the store. The woman in front of her in line wrote out a check for $100, and the woman behind her drove to Coventry to pick up a microwave and coffee pot to donate.

“God provides,” she said. “When you’re looking, he provides.”

While fundraising, Michaud said she met many people who weren’t aware that there was no emergency housing for homeless families. Many thought families could shelter at the WARM Center, and Michaud said she had to explain that the shelter only accepts adults, and no children.

Linda Chaffee, another Steering Committee member, remarked on the generosity of local churches. Although she only had time to approach two churches, both gave generously.

“People were not pulling out $5 bills, they were pulling out $20 bills,” she said.

Family Housing Support will continue fundraising through the spring, Carr said.

The Steering Committee members will need to think strategically as they move forward, he noted. They don’t yet know, for example, what the fundraising capacity of the community is, or whether they should hold a series of small fundraisers or one big annual fundraiser. Plans include raising money for a second emergency apartment, he confirmed, but it needs to be done in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the financing of the first apartment.

“Sustaining this project is really our goal,” he said.

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