SPONSORED BY THE WASHINGTON SQUARE RESIDENCE.
Fundraiser May 6th at The Lynn Memorial Auditorium.
For more than a century there has been a special place in downtown Lynn that has been called home for many individuals. The Lynn Home for Young Women provides an affordable, safe, and welcoming place to live. Executive Director Lisa Connolly said the private non-profit corporation has continued to fund its mission to provide “a home away from home” since its inception in 1912.
“Though tremendous changes have occurred over the past one hundred plus years, the commitment of the Lynn Home for Women has not,” she said. “We continue to assist women from those just starting out on life’s journey to those starting over. And anyone in between.”
LHW was the brainchild of leaders of the Young Women’s Temperance Union of the late-1800’s. The group gathered sponsors and established a “reading and rest room” on Market Street to offer respite for young women who came to Lynn to work in the shoe factories. What started as a single room for young women working in the city has grown to include two buildings on Broad Street, which have since been merged into one through an extension renovation.
Lynn Home for Young Women/Washington Square Residences (WSR) residents reflect the diversity of Lynn itself. Individuals range in age from 18 to more than 70 years of age. They include students, disabled individuals, survivors of domestic violence, working women, and retirees. They have come from Africa, Brazil, Guatemala, Alabama, Oklahoma, Lynn and many other places, but one thing that they all have in common is they each call LHW/WSR home.
Loretta Cuffe-O’Donnell, who serves as president of LHW Board of Directors, has ties with the organization that go back a generation. “My mother used to help women get housing there,” O’Donnell said. “As a child I had friends who lived in LHW. It did so much for young women over the years. It used to be for women only but we have opened our doors to men as well,” she said. “It’s a beautiful place to live where people can get a good meal and support they need.”
O’Donnell pointed out the two buildings underwent a $6 million renovation in 2010. The Broad Street facility is environmentally friendly and houses 43 residents in furnished single occupancy rooms with private or shared bathrooms and studios. LHA/WSR has six shared kitchens, laundry facilities, a computer room, foyer and large back yard. It houses a professional food service and a large dining room where dinner is served four nights a week.
Resident Jessica Tower, who is a graduate student at Salem State University, said she enjoys the camaraderie of the communal dinners.
“It makes meal planning and budgeting easier for me,” she said. “There are four nights I don’t have to worry about cooking and it gives me more time to dedicate to school work.”
O’Donnell pointed out that WSR is constantly evolving and expanding its programs to meet the needs of the residents. “WSR is going forward and doing even more today than it had in the past,” she said.
Connolly added WSR was innovative when it was founded and has continually adapted to meet the changing needs of individuals in the community and it is a housing model that other agencies are trying to recreate.
“Recently we were contacted by a group from Notre Dame University regarding SRO (single room occupancy) style housing,” she said. “A group of 10 students spent the day with our staff, residents and management gleaning best practices for supportive, affordable, single occupancy housing in the fight to address housing insecurity in our society today.”
One resident said WSR is a place where she was able to seek refuge from an abusive relationship and begin to put her life back together in a supportive and safe environment.
“I was stuck in an unsafe place where I didn’t belong,” she said. “Moving here helped me by offering me a new beginning and it is helping me get to a place where I should be in my life.”
“New Beginnings” is focal point of what WSR offers and is an apt name for its fund raising event on May 6, at 8 p.m. in the Lynn Memorial Auditorium. Bill McGuinness is hosting ”New Beginnings” which includes a dazzling array of local and national talent. Members of the bands Boston and Beatlejuice will come together in the return of the super group Spring Rain. Local favorites include the Lynn Public Schools Jazz Band, Community Auditions winner Sheree Dunwell, Don White, and The Dirty Floorboards. Rounding out the musical extravaganza are Jim Dennis, Not Sure Community and Carolyn Cole. Tickets are $42, general admission, and are available at the Lynn Memorial Auditorium Box Office in Lynn City Hall, by calling 781- 599-7469 or online at www.lynnauditorium.com.
Story by Deb Glidden.
(Photo is of some of the art provided to
decorate the Washington Square Residence
for its tenants. Taken by Cassie Vitali).