Home away from home: YMCA renovating a safe haven in Naugatuck

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By Jay Dunn Republican-American

NAUGATUCK — For the men who are “members-in-residence,” living at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), 284 Church Street is home.

The single-occupancy rooms at the YMCA are “a little bigger than the office we’re in,” said Mark LaFortune, CEO of the nonprofit, “and they are equipped with a bed, dresser, nightstand, closet, heat, electricity, all of that is included in their weekly rent. We subsidize it, so we can keep it at a low cost for them, and keep it affordable.”

These short-term residencies are meant to ease the lives of people making life-changing transitions. Of 30 rooms available, 24 are occupied.

If you’re living at the YMCA, membership is included, a big benefit, especially in the winter. A varied suite of new exercise equipment, the basketball court, a pristine pool, and companionship are all part of the package.

“We just renovated a lot of the space upstairs for the first time in well over 50 years,” said LaFortune. “We went in and fully renovated the bathrooms, the flooring throughout, also in the common rooms, where there is cable television and chairs. The bathrooms have new vanities and sinks, new electricity, and ventilation. We also gave everything a facelift with new paint on the doors, ceilings, walls, etc. to give it a new life up there. In addition, we redid all the exit doors and fire escapes, to make it safe for everyone.”

The YMCA’s building dates from 1923, according to LaFortune, and the current renovations are part of a recent push to keep the historic structure in good shape. Improvements were made to the main structures first. The roof was repaired in 2020 and common spaces were redone in 2021.

A Building Equitable Opportunities grant of $7,500, announced last week by the Connecticut Community Foundation, will allow the YMCA to continue renovations for residents by focusing on individual rooms.

“We’re going to task as much as we can in-house. We can use the dollars to buy materials, but there are some projects that need general contractors,” said LaFortune. “The goal is to make it a positive, new-look living space for our members upstairs.”