As Connecticut’s housing crisis worsens — buffeted by the perfect storm of an economic downturn, rising rents and decreased stocks of affordable units — Homes with Hope becomes more important than ever.
For nearly 40 years the non-profit (originally the Interfaith Housing Association) has provided area residents with emergency shelter, supportive housing, a community kitchen and food pantry, and much more.
It offers beds for men and women downtown, in the shadow of Tiffany. There are also small individual and group homes throughout Westport — unobtrusive yet critical housing at a time when the need for affordable units is critical.
Since 1983, Westport — town officials, other non-profits and countless individuals — has supported Homes with Hope. That support continues.
A $1 million renovation of Gillespie Center and Hoskins Place — nestled next to Barnes & Noble, Walrus Alley and Don Memo — will add security measures, insulation, and air conditioning for volunteers in the food pantry (plus refrigeration, for perishable goods).
Plans are moving now through the permitting process. The target date for construction is early next year.
Not far away, on Compo Road North next the Little League fields and tennis courts, Project Return will transition from an emergency shelter to supportive housing for young women ages 18 to 24. With longer stays they’ll be able to access more services, including education, jobs and social work.
If approved by town bodies, 6 units will be added to Westport’s overall affordable housing stock.
All of Homes with Hope’s work — which goes on 24/7/365 — costs money. Exactly 2/3 of their budget comes from donations.
Which is why “Stand Up for Comedy” — the annual fundraiser — is so crucial.
This year’s event is October 15 (8:30 p.m., Fairfield University Quick Center). Pat McGann headlines the comedy special. The Chicago-based comic has performed at Madison Square Garden, Gilda’s LaughFest, the Great American Comedy Festival, the Nashville Comedy Fest and Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival.
He’s been on the Late Show with David Letterman — twice — and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. His riffs on his wife, kids and marriage were spot on.
After a COVID-canceled 2020 event and a Westport Library hybrid version last year, Homes with Hope executive director Helen McAlinden, and event co-chairs Allyson Gottlieb and Becky Martin, are thrilled to be back at the Quick Center.
“This is a great opportunity to be together, laugh and support a very important cause,” McAlinden says.
The laughter pays off. Last year, Homes with Hope served 951 different people: men and women at the shelters; individuals and families in 8 other housing programs; children in after-school programs, and the community kitchen and food pantry.
The non-profit also covers, on an as-needed basis, costs like security deposits, or first and last month’s rent, for clients moving into their own rental places.
McAlinden notes that in this part of Fairfield County, people need to earn $38.50 an hour to afford a studio or 1-bedroom apartment. Connecticut’s minimum wage is $14, so even 2 full-time jobs would not cover that.
“There’s nothing more meaningful than helping someone get on their feet, and plant roots,” says Gottlieb.
She and Martin hope many Westporters will get on their own feet too, on October 15 too — to stand up for both comedy, and Homes with Hope.
(For tickets and more information on “An Evening of Comedy with Pat McGann,” click here.)
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