Women Offered Hope As Gini's House Opens In Norwalk

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Bob Bantle, son of Lou and Virginia Bantle, for whom Gini's House is named, celebrates the opening of the new Norwalk affordable housing development.
Bob Bantle, son of Lou and Virginia Bantle, for whom Gini's House is named, celebrates the opening of the new Norwalk affordable housing development. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue

NORWALK, Conn. -- Norwalk leaders and community members came together Tuesday to celebrate the opening of Gini's House, an affordable housing community for women overcoming substance abuse.

The housing development on Elmcrest Terrace is part of Liberation Programs and features 18 one- and two-bedroom apartments for women and their children, as well as a fitness center and a community room. In addition to providing its residents with a place to stay, Gini's House also offers on-site case management and support services, as well as connections to education, job training and employment assistance.

Robin DePaiva first came to Liberation Programs when she was pregnant with her son, Patrick, who is now 15 weeks old.

"This program has really helped me a lot, it’s given me a new chance at life, it’s given me a great, amazing place to raise my son, a safe environment, and caring people. I’m very grateful for this opportunity that you all have given us and I appreciate all the help."

United Healthcare and Enterprise Community Investment used low-income housing tax credits to invest $5.4 million into the $7.2 million project. Additional funding came from the Connecticut Department of economic and Community Development, Liberation Programs, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and New Neighborhoods.

"We believe very strongly that recovery is a journey, and housing and services are an important part of that journey for all of the women and all the children who are here," said Debra Hertz, chairperson of Liberation Programs. 

"There’s nothing better than being able to work as a community to help people to get back into the mainstream, to help them get back into a life that they can live on and have their basic needs," said Mayor Harry Rilling.

"I feel a sense of joy in this moment, but there are a thousand people we treat at Liberation Programs every day, and most of them live in poverty,"said Alan Mathis, president and CEO of Liberation Programs. "They have no hopes and dreams. It’s been snuffed out by the alcohol and drugs they use to medicate their pain. So in this moment of feeling joy, the work's not done, there’s more for us to do."

Gini's House is named after Virginia Bantle, wife of Lou Bantle, whose investment toward the project included the purchase of the Elmcrest Terrace property, as well as a contribution toward the project. Their son Bob helped cut the ribbon on Gini's House on Tuesday.

"Mom is a strong woman, and her faith really kept us all together as a family, and to be able to continue to do what we can do to make our community a stronger one is really based on faith and working together as a community," he said.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said that Gini's House was an example of the state's commitment to affordable housing.

"With great partnerships like Liberation, we’re actually rediscovering the importance of housing and how it changes communities by changing individual lives," Malloy said.

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