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Posted on: September 8, 2021

Youth & Family Outreach and PHA Collaborate to Tackle “Twin Crises” of Housing & Childcare

From left to right: Michael Bourque, Annzarh Valentino, Camelia Babson-Haley, Cheryl Sessions

PORTLAND, Maine (September 8, 2021) – On Thursday, September 2, Youth & Family Outreach (YFO), the Portland Housing Authority (PHA) and distinguished guests gathered on the grounds of YFO to deliver an update on their partnership to develop an innovative childcare and housing facility at 337 Cumberland Avenue in Portland. YFO also took the opportunity to announce its Building a Brighter Future Campaign.

Once complete, the joint project will have nearly doubled YFO’s current childcare capacity, created new community space for YFO to offer parent resources and wrap-around services, and created 60 units of mixed-income housing, all under one roof in downtown Portland. The new, fully accessible, energy-efficient building will be connected to Youth & Family Outreach’s existing 177-year-old chapel facility, which will be completely renovated. The development will also help to pilot new green building standards as one of the International Living Future Institute’s Affordable Housing Pilot Projects for 2020-2023.

Addressing guests at Thursday’s event, YFO Executive Director Camelia Babson-Haley and PHA Executive Director Cheryl Sessions both emphasized access to high-quality childcare and safe, quality affordable housing as essential to supporting working families in the Greater Portland area. 

“Portland’s workforce infrastructure requires access to high-quality childcare for working parents. This project will provide space to increase YFO’s comprehensive educational and support services, and double child and family education enrollment, a two-generation approach to ensure family stability,” said Babson-Haley.

“Housing and childcare are foundational to family wellbeing. Every family deserves to live in safe, quality housing they can afford, and to have children cared for in a safe, clean environment while at work. This project will not only be a model of sustainable building design, but also a model for community partners working together to create opportunities for families to live and work just steps away from educational opportunities and quality childcare,” said Sessions.

Guest speakers included Building a Brighter Future Campaign co-chair Michael Bourque, and Annzarh Valentino, who shared how Youth & Family Outreach and the Portland Housing Authority helped her find housing and childcare after arriving in Maine as a refugee. Today, Valentino is a proud homeowner, college graduate, YFO employee, and mother of three children who all attended YFO.

“Youth & Family Outreach made America a better place for me. I was lonely. I got through a divorce. I had a child. I had no English. That time was really, really hard,” said Valentino. “When I started here [at YFO], I felt like I was making my own family. And I understand that family doesn’t have to be blood related; wherever you belong, that's your family. With help from YFO and a rental assistance voucher from the Portland Housing Authority, it was a great opportunity for me to thrive, manage myself, and save some money. … Portland Housing Authority and Youth & Family Outreach gave me the foundation to build a life for my family.”

The development is expected to break ground in 2022. For more information, visit the Youth & Family Outreach press kit.

About Youth & Family Outreach

Youth & Family Outreach (YFO) is a nationally accredited early care and education program whose skilled staff works to transform the lives of young children and to support parent workforce participation to build a stronger community.  As a longtime community anchor institution, YFO engages in strategic partnerships to provide wraparound services, and serve the needs of the whole family.

 About Portland Housing Authority

Established in 1943, the Portland Housing Authority and its affiliated corporations provide long-term, affordable fair rental housing and related assistance to more than 3,000 low-income families, seniors and disabled individuals. It does this primarily through federally funded and regulated programs, including the Foster Youth to Independence Program (FYI) and the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program. In collaboration with community partners, PHA strives to improve quality of life, build community, enhance safety and promote personal success for the people it serves and the neighborhoods in which they reside. For more information, visit www.porthouse.org.

From left to right: Michael Bourque, Annzarh Valentino, Camelia Babson-Haley, Cheryl Sessions

From left to right: Michael Bourque, Annzarh Valentino, Camelia Babson-Haley, Cheryl Sessions. Photo credit: James Hardman.

a drawing of what the new building could look like for Youth and Family Outreach

Building rendering on display at the press conference on September 2. Photo credit: James Hardman

Three drawings of floor plans for the YFO and PHA housing partnershipFloorplans on display at the press conference on September 2. Photo credit: James Hardman

Cheryl Sessions at a podium speaking at the press conference September 2nd, 2021Foreground, at podium: Cheryl Sessions. Background, from left to right: Camelia Babson-Haley, Michael Bourque, Annzarh Valentino. Photo credit: James Hardman

Annzarh Valentino at a podium speaking at the press conference September 2nd, 2021Foreground, at podium: Annzarh Valentino. Background, from left to right: Cheryl Sessions, Camelia Babson-Haley, Michael Bourque. Photo credit: James Hardman

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