City government Friday opened an outpost on Dixwell Avenue to bring “one-stop shopping” to the neighborhood.
Officials cut the ribbon on the new center at 316 Dixwell Ave., a former garage and then home for a job-training center.
The city spent $72,000 renovating it—including clearing cement out of pipes—according to William MacMullen of the city’s engineering department, who oversaw the project.
A rotating cast of eight or so government workers will staff the building. Half the building will offer help sign up for state welfare and health programs, city prison re-entry and neighborhood programs, and community programs runs by Community Action Agency, MOMS Partnership, and the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress. That wing of the building is now called the New Haven Opportunity Center. Or “NH Op-C” for short.
The goal is to enable people to avoid “taking two buses” and spending hours trying to fill out forms or obtain services, said city Community Services Administrator Matha Okafor, who emceed a grand opening event, at which 100 people filled the building’s main room.
The state Department of Social Services will install kiosks at which people can obtain information, sign up for programs, or update their status.
State social services chief Roderick Bremby was asked how those kiosks will defer from computer programs that people can access at home. He responded that they’ll provide more information; that people can press the screens rather than bumble with a mouse; that print-outs will be available; and that he hopes to have retirees volunteer to be on site to guide people and answer questions.
The other wing of the building is the new home of city government’s Small Business Academy, which helps budding local entrepreneurs.
City Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson said his office is still redesigning that academy, so it won’t open for a few more weeks.
He placed the new center’s opening in the context of a broader effort to boost local entrepreneurship in the age of globalization as well as to revive commerce along Dixwell Avenue.
“A lot of people who used to work for big corporations are going to be starting their own businesses,” and need help developing their ideas and skills and obtaining capital, he said. Meanwhile, the city wants to encourage both big companies and citizens “to buy locally. It’s time to go back to the time when Dixwell Avenue was a thriving local economy. We have to bring that back.”
Pastor Theodore Brooks, whose church is around the corner, remembered bringing his car for repairs when the building housed the garage. He blessed the new goal of helping to fix the economy and create jobs at the center.“I can’t have people come to church who have no money,” he quipped.