Housing Complex Opens for Residents in Recovery

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A partnership involving three social service agencies in the Mahoning Valley has opened the doors to those struggling with homelessness, addiction, mental illness and other disorders.

The Commons at Madison, a 40-room affordable-housing complex on the North Side, officially welcomes residents today, stakeholders said at a ribbon-cutting and open house Monday.

“It’s going to give the people of our community the opportunity to live with absolute dignity and respect,” said Joe Caruso, president and CEO of Compass Family & Community Services. “It’s an incredible, affordable-housing unit that was made possible by so many people.”

Compass, Meridian HealthCare and the Help Network of Northeast Ohio combined their resources and served as the lead partners for the $8.5 million housing complex. However, as Caruso pointed out, there were many others behind the scenes who brought the project to fruition.

Among the public agencies involved are the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board, the Ohio Department of Mental Health, the Ohio Development Services Agency, the Ohio Capital Corp. for Housing, the Ohio Housing Finance Agency and the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority.

“It’s very exciting for Mahoning County,” said Duane Piccirilli, executive director of the Mahoning County Mental Health Board. “I see this as one of our triumphs. This is how our clients should live. This is recovery at its best.”

Housing is a critical step in how people recover, Piccirilli continued, and provides a foundation from which addicts can move forward to improve their lives. “This is the point where people can live independent, get jobs, continue with their lives and get support, because recovery is a lifelong process.”

Huntington Bank, Home Savings Bank and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati helped finance the project.

The Youngstown Foundation’s Kennedy Family Fund and John S. and Doris M. Andrews Memorial Fund, the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, the J. Ford Crandall Memorial Foundation, the Pearl and Frank Gelbman Charitable Foundation and the John D. Finnegan Foundation are among the nonprofit organizations that contributed to the project.

“Very soon, there will be 40 people who will have a safe place to live in a beautiful environment and a place to thrive and be successful for the rest of their lives,” said Larry Moliterno, president of Meridian HealthCare.

The new complex houses 40 one-bedroom apartments that Moliterno said could be filled within a month. “We recognized the lack of housing for folks who are homeless, struggling with addiction issues and who are ready to successfully complete treatment and move on with their lives,” he said. “Having a safe place to live is an important part of that process.”

Moliterno said the units are for low-income earners and come with support services such as transportation, instruction on family life skills, interview skills, attire, wellness, stress reduction and nutritional counseling.

“This is meant to be permanent housing,” he said.

Agencies are struggling to meet the growing demand for these services, Moliterno added, in the face of cuts in state and federal funding for projects such as the Commons. “With all of the cuts that have been made through HUD [the Department of Housing and Urban Development] and other funding sources, it’s going to be very difficult for us now to make sure we can provide this type of housing.”

In the case of the Commons at Madison, the project used tax credits to help offset the costs of development, Moliterno said.

Monday’s ribbon cutting was the culmination of an effort that began five years ago, and officials credited its success to the three organizations that worked together.

“This is significant, because it’s about the future,” remarked Vince Brancaccio, CEO of Help Network of Northeast Ohio. “This housing project will be here long after us, housing those in need for a long time.”

“3 Minutes With”: Commons at Madison Opens

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