For 33 years, Project Return has helped teenage girls and young women in crisis rebuild their lives.
For 33 years too, Homes With Hope has provided emergency shelter, permanent supportive housing, food and services to homeless men, women and children.
Starting today, 2 of Westport’s most important organizations merge.
Just 2 months ago, Project Return — the converted 8-bed farmhouse on North Compo Road that since 1983 has housed hundreds of females from Westport and surrounding towns — learned that on June 30, it would lose all state money.
The Department of Children and Families — which provided 80% of the group’s funding — has been hit hard by budget cuts. In addition, DCF has shifted its policy, from group homes to foster care.
At the same time, Project Return was moving its focus to a slightly older group: 18-25-year-old women. It’s an under-served population that is projected to rise, says Kim Lake, board member and chair of the organization’s Strategic Action Committee.
“Partnering with Homes With Hope is by far our best option,” Lake says. “They’re excellent at what they do — and they’re part of our community.”
Homes With Hope president and CEO Jeff Wieser is thrilled with the new collaboration.
“Project Return will be a separate, fully functioning program under our umbrella,” he says.
“They’ll continue their wonderful work: nurturing, coaching, helping young women get back to their families or begin independent lives.”
“But we did not have the facilities to focus on that population, right here in our own community.”
1983 was a watershed: The year 2 fantastic organizations were founded.
2016 will go down in both groups’ histories — now shared — too.