Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Veteran’s new home was community effort

By Eliza Hallabeck
Special to the Register
—For Renee Wells, becoming a first-time homeowner was a community event.
And Monday marked an exciting day for Wells and the community, as the ribbon was cut for her new house on Kossuth Street.
As its first home ownership project and development in the city, Common Ground Community sponsored the event to celebrate Wells’ achievement of purchasing the house on March 25.
The project was a combined effort by Common Ground Community, the Yale University School of Architecture and the Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven.
“Being on the first floor is new for me,” said Wells, who has difficulty walking due to pain from fibromyalgia and shortness of breath. Wells is a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Gulf War, and a single mother of two children, Megan, 9 and Kenny, 10.
“I can’t believe a few people could make this so beautiful,” said Megan. “Unbelievable.”
Nancy Macmillan, director of Housing Development for Connecticut for Common Ground, it was important to “make sure the house was ADA approved and physically handicap accessible.”
Macmillan led the opening for the morning, expressing gratitude to the many people and organizations involved in the project.
The city sold the land for the project, and Greater New Haven Community Loan Fund provided construction financing.
This community and this project “recognizes that people come from very different parts of their lives,” said Mayor John DeStefano Jr.
The house has a rental unit on the top floor with one bedroom and one bathroom. The first floor has three bedrooms and two bathrooms for Wells’ family. Wells owns the entire building, and will be able to rent the upstairs unit for a further benefit to her income.
Macmillan said Common Ground Community wanted to do the project because there is a need in the area, and the agency’s offices are based out of New Haven, she said.
“We wanted to collaborate with the city and with Yale,” said Macmillan.
The building has 17 corners, said professor Adam Hopfner of the Yale School of Architecture and the director of the building project. He said the number of corners is very different from the normal number of four.
“This truly was an amazing collaboration,” said Hopfner.
Just over 50 first-year graduate students from Yale University worked together on designing and building the home. The many donations the home was afforded included a $30,000 lighting system provided by Sunlight Solar Energy.
The construction was finished and first celebrated by Yale University in September.
Kenny and Megan said they are excited to move in next month, because Kenny’s birthday is around the same time. The moving date has been postponed due to complications in the children’s school schedule.
Kenny said he is impressed by the entire house and he plans to ride his bike in the backyard.
“It’s pretty cool,” Kenny said.
Megan said they had no trouble deciding on rooms.
“I always sleep closest to my mom,” Megan said, “because I worry about her. She is my life.”
Eliza Hallabeck is a New Haven Register intern.

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