A phalanx of muckamucks started digging a hole in the ground in the shadow of West Rock—so kids in trouble can have a roof over their heads and a chance at a better life.
The ceremonial hole-digging took place Wednesday morning outside a tent in the backyard of 141 Valley St.
The tent housed a ceremony marking the launch of a $1.5 million construction project by Youth Continuum, a New Haven agency that has housed homeless teens and other “at risk” boys since 1966.
The $1.5 million will go toward two new replacement buildings for the agency’s two residences for “troubled” males, Forbes House and Uno House. Forbes currently houses nine teenaged foster teens in a crumbling 113-year-old 3,788-square-foot house facing Valley Street (pictured) and gives them mental health and “life skills” help. Come July, Youth Continuum hopes to move the nine teens into a new, more “flexible” and “comfortable” modular home in the back yard.
At that point nine teens from Uno House on Winchester Avenue will temporarily move into the old Valley Street house (also built in 1900) while a replacement house is built in Newhallville. The plan is to have the second group of teens move back into a new modular replacement home on Winchester by the end of November, then to tear down the old Valley Street house and replace it with attractive landscaping.
The two old buildings housing Forbes and Uno deteriorated from “age” and “overuse,” according to Youth Continuum board chair Lewis G. Schaeneman Jr.
“If you’ve ever lived with even one teenaged boy, you’ll understand why its time has come and why it’s so important,” Schaeneman told the 50 people gathered for the groundbreaking.
The Malloy administration kicked in close to $1 million for the project, New Haven’s Livable City Initiative (LCI) another $150,000.
The project offers a “loving home” and essential help for kids who would be otherwise “living in a car or missing school or being abused,” Malloy said.
“It’s not just about the housing. It is a real commitment to how these children are brought up,” added Joette Katz, who heads Malloy’s Department of Children and Families.