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Housing issues affect everyone in Connecticut, from those who are searching for a safe place to live, to those who may find it increasingly difficult to afford a place they already call home.WNPR is covering Connecticut's housing and homelessness issues in a series that examines how residents are handling the challenges they face. We look at the trends that matter most right now, and tell stories that help bring the issues to light.

Formerly Incarcerated Women Displaced By Fire Get New Home

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Frankie Graziano
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Connecticut Public Radio
The living room inside a home in Manchester where women who recently got out of prison are living together. It features a Christmas tree that was donated to the women.

Five Connecticut women returning from prison just got a big gift in time for the holiday season -- a new home.

Their old one in Hartford -- a reentry home known as Mart’s House -- went up in flames in June.

Now in Manchester, there’s Mart’s House II.

“This is like a nice, quaint house,” said Kimberly Lebel, one of the women who just moved into the Manchester home. “[The old one] was more like an institution -- a room in an institution.”

Mart’s House is run by a Connecticut nonprofit called Community Partners in Action, which is dedicated to helping women who’ve recently left the York Correctional Institution in Niantic. Lebel and Monique Greene are two of those women.

After the Hartford fire, they had to stay at an old juvenile detention center around the corner from the State Capitol, also in Hartford. There were bars on the windows.

“The old center reminded me of a halfway house, and I didn’t like it at all,” Greene said. I stayed out as much as I could.”

The new home also offers something Greene needs -- proximity to a bus stop, which connects her to potential employers.

“They got Wendy’s, they got McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway -- they’ve got all the restaurants and I have experience in them,” Greene said.

In the kitchen of the new home is a sign on the wall that says, “When one door closes, another opens.”

In this case, the door comes with an address to type on the top line of a résumé. That’s everything to someone reentering society from prison.

“I need a job. I’m into food service. I can do housework,” Greene said. “I just want to work for the new year.”

Housemate Yveline Louissaint goes to school at Capital Community College.

“I am now working, and I was able to save money,” Louissaint said. “I bought a car, so I’m able to go to school with a car.”

It’s a change from the summer when Louissaint was frustrated about not being hired anywhere she applied.

“My felony was too fresh. I just came home, so no, I wasn’t given a chance by anybody at that time,” Louissaint said. “But, with time -- and God’s help -- the situation has changed.”

Ultimately, the five women at Mart’s House would prefer their own place. But for now, the new house in Manchester is giving them the kind of fresh start they sought when they got out of prison.

If you read any of Frankie Graziano’s previous biographies, they’d be all about his passion for sports. But times change – and he’s a family man now.

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