In case you missed it last Friday, the Friends of the Homeless celebrated the grand opening of its long-planned Resource Center.  As the  Springfield Republican reported:

City and state officials, business leaders, and homeless advocates gathered Friday to celebrate the completion of a $12.5 million homeless resource center on Worthington Street, seen by some as a dream come true after five years of planning and fund raising.

Those praising the new resource center said it fits in with the city’s 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness by providing improved housing, emergency shelter space, and one-stop support services for those in need. The center is operated by Friends of the Homeless, a private, nonprofit organization.

The project began last fall with construction of a new building and renovation to the existing building on Worthington Street with public and private funding.

Juan Machicote, one of the men and women being served at the center, said the renovations make it much brighter and nicer.

“I am grateful to a lot of people here,” Machicote said, during the celebration ceremony. “When I came here, I didn’t have nothing. I was a wreck. Now I care for everybody.”

Machicote, who has a single-room apartment at Friends of the Homeless, has an 11-year-old son who does not live with him.

“I want him to be proud,” Machicote said.

The new building includes 32 efficiency apartments for the chronically homeless, a medical and dental clinic, a kitchen that serves up to 500 meals a day, a resource center to help them access services and to find permanent housing, and a new women’s shelter. The adjacent men’s shelter at 769 Worthington St., was renovated along with the kitchens and bathrooms of the Worthington House, a 60-room rental unit also operated by Friends of the Homeless.

“We are thrilled to get to this point in our effort to end homelessness,” said William J. Miller, executive director of Friends of the Homeless. “The work continues. We help people help themselves.”

Doreen T. Fadus, board chairwoman for Friends, said the center is not “a warehouse” for the homeless but links them with housing, job search assistance, and medical and mental health needs.

Geraldine McCafferty, the city’s director of housing, said that just over five years ago, Springfield was the site of a tent city and overflowing shelters.

The city in its wisdom adopted a better approach through a collaboration of government, business people, faith groups, community activists and others, McCafferty said. That approach includes efforts to re-house the homeless and to intervene as soon as people become homeless, she said.

“What I see are hope and promise,” said Peter F. Straley, president and chief executive officer of Health New England, who was co-chairman of the capital fund-raising committee. His co-chairman, Robert J. Schwarz, executive vice-president of Peter Pan Bus Lines, said the new center is “a very wonderful accomplishment.”

Congratulations and thank you, Friends of the Homeless!

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