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Homelessness nonprofit's hotel-to-housing conversion welcomes first tenants

A South Shore homeless service provider has finished renovating the first 24 studio apartments in a Brockton hotel it's converting into permanent supportive housing for people coming out of homelessness. Ten tenants moved in this week.

Father Bill's & MainSpring started renting the hotel, the Rodeway Inn, in the summer of 2020 to make its nearby emergency shelter for adults less crowded during the pandemic. It later purchased the hotel with the intent of converting it into housing.

It's the first time a homeless service provider in Massachusetts has converted a former hotel into permanent supportive housing for people who were formerly homeless. The building, now known as Roadway Apartments, will have 69 apartments once finished. Tenants will have case managers and receive support services to help them stay connected to medical care, addiction treatment, job training, budgeting help and other resources

Some of the tenants have been homeless long-term. Others became homeless during the pandemic, according to Father Bill's & MainSpring Chief Operating Officer April Connolly.

"Really seeing these beautiful units coming on line and people having the opportunity to consider themselves really settled in their new home, in a course of time that is just breakneck speed compared to other affordable housing projects, is just really exciting," Connolly said, adding that it would normally take three to four years to develop a building with this number of efficiency apartments.

It's also much less expensive than most other affordable housing developments. At about $150,000 per unit — less than half the typical cost — the total price tag is approximately $10 million, according to Connolly. The bulk of that is coming from state funds through the state Department of Housing and Community Development, she said. A couple of private grants also helped fund the development.

Delores Domenico, 73, is one of the tenants who moved in this week. She became homeless for the first time last May, when the house in Stoughton where she had rented an apartment for 17 years burned down. Her mother died in the fire, and Domenico says she lost all of her possessions. The only money she had saved, $2,000 in federal stimulus payments, has been tied up in her mother's bank account she can't yet access.

It was tough living in the MainSpring shelter at first, Domenico said. Though she adjusted and made friends, she's happy to be in her own space again.

"It's really cute. It's a little studio — just a bed and a kitchenette and a bathroom," Domenico said. "But at least after being in a shelter for six months, this is nice and quiet ... I can come and go as I please. There are a lot of restrictions that I don't have here, that I had at the shelter.

As is standard in subsidized housing, she pays about one-third of her monthly income for rent — in her case, just over $200. It's the perfect place to get back on her feet and to be able to do some cooking again, she said. She hopes to be able to move on to a one-bedroom subsidized apartment before long.

Hotel rooms are being renovated as efficiency apartments while shelter guests are still living in the other rooms yet to be converted. Father Bill's & MainSpring expects all of the units to be converted and guests moved in by sometime this spring.

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Lynn Jolicoeur Twitter Producer/Reporter
Lynn Jolicoeur is the field producer for WBUR's All Things Considered. She also reports for the station's various local news broadcasts.

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