With a storied history of providing temporary safe shelter for victims of domestic violence, the Elizabeth Buffum Chase Center (EBCC) has always seen its mission as to, one day, provide something more permanent for the people who need their services. On Monday, June 24, this goal finally came to fruition, just in time for the organization’s 40th anniversary.
Mayor Joseph Solomon, EBCC board president Martha Machnik, Interim Executive Director of RI Housing Carol Ventura, Chief of Housing and Community Development Michael Tondra, Manager of EBCC’s Residential Services Donna Gilmer and a domestic abuse survivor named Jessica [last name omitted], all surrounded Judith Earle, the Executive Director of EBCC, to celebrate the long awaited groundbreaking of the organization’s seven long-term “safe and affordable” rental units.
“A house is made of bricks and beams, but a home is made of hopes and dreams,” said Machnik, adding that supportive rehabilitation is what the Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center has always passionately fought for.
It has been a long road to accomplishing that mission, and Earle even said she once thought she would “age out” of her position long before she ever saw the “funding necessary for such an undertaking.”
That funding amounts to about $1.83 million, the majority of which ($1.24 million) comes from Building Homes Rhode Island (BHRI) grants, a state program under the Office of Housing and Community Development. About $150,000 comes from local Community Development Block Grant funding, and another $238,000 from a 0 percent deferred local loan. Another $200,000 was supplied from a Thresholds Grant via the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.
This money will create seven units of long-term, deed restricted housing, all listed as affordable. They will be located at the site of the former Conimicut School on West Shore Road, which was acquired by the EBCC from the city years ago. Earle said that, if all goes as planned, units will be available by January of 2020.
“It took a long time for this happen,” said Joyce Rose, office manager for the EBCC, who attended the Conimicut school that is now the site of permanent housing for victims. She said that even though the exterior of the building remains similar to its days as a school, EBCC has given it “a new life.”
Earle said that the permanent housing units would be available to those in need for as long as they required, but that she didn’t think this will be the way they will ultimately be utilized.
“They can stay for the rest of their lives, but I don't think they will,” she said. “This is for clients who have reached a point in their lives where they can live independently.” She added that the availability of this housing will benefit families, as kids will not have to switch schools in the midst of the other issues going on in their lives, as they may have to with other types of transitional housing.
While the atmosphere of celebration was palpable on Monday, those at the helm of the Center are not proclaiming their mission accomplished just yet. Earle remarked that although she is “excited” about the project at hand, she continues to “look to the future, to new projects.”
The Elizabeth Buffum Chase center has faced its bouts of struggle, but its leaders have made it clear through their optimism that their fight for change is not yet over. Just as Earle promises, the organization will continue to carry out the “spirit” of women’s rights activist, Elizabeth Buffum Chase herself, ensuring that that their work, “betters the lives of families.”
In his remarks Mayor Solomon said of the city, “We believe in your mission as strongly as you believe in your mission.”
“This is the start of a new future,” remarked Ventura.
The Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center provides a wide array of services to those experiencing domestic violence, including a hotline and safe shelter. Their services are also available to men experiencing abuse. To learn more about available services or inquire about the permanent housing, go to EBCCenter.org.