Building Lives Initiative
The Open Door Shelter is about to embark upon an important project which will transform South Norwalk and impact the lives of the area’s most vulnerable citizens. The project will total $6 million and leverage gifts from individual benefactors as well as grants from the Connecticut Department of Housing and other public agencies. It will bring together the support of other non-profits and public service agencies, to help ensure the health, job training, and housing needs of the area are met.


A historic 19th century, 19,800 square foot factory building just one block from the Open Door Shelter will be adaptively restored to deliver services that will transform the neighborhood. The building will encompass three distinct centers to address the housing needs of the community, provide localized health, mental health and substance abuse counseling services and offer living wage job training and placement.

• Sixteen efficiency apartments —
Will provide individuals with their own home in a supportive environment. Two units may be reserved for Veterans and two may be used for individuals requiring medical monitoring or respite care working in partnership with a regional health provider. Three will be handicapped accessible.

• A neighborhood health center —
The center will take a multidisciplinary approach to routine medical needs, mental health and substance abuse addiction diagnosis and outpatient treatment.

• A job training facility —
Will give individuals of all ages an opportunity to gain skills to earn a living wage. The program will be developed in collaboration with skilled trade organizations, colleges and other non-profits and will include hi-tech training and class rooms designed to support trades skills education, GED programs, and college entry classes.

When the SoNo Life Center project is completed on budget and funding goals are achieved, some funds will be designated for the development of additional housing for families and reserves for the community services provided by Open Door Shelter.


No single project will have a greater impact on the lives of the working poor and homeless of South Norwalk than The SoNo Life Center. More than 29% of the families living in the Greater Norwalk area, have been identified as struggling to survive or as the working poor and some are homeless. This project will serve the working poor, individuals and families and the homeless community.

There is not a single reason that an individual or a family becomes homeless or lives a life in poverty.

There is however an array of problems that creates the conditions which place people at risk including: housing shortages, deinstitutionalization, education failure, inadequate income, illness and lack of access to consistent healthcare, disability, substance abuse, and domestic violence, among others. In a recent study by the United Way of Connecticut, the top ten unmet needs in 2013 all related to housing, case management and homeless services.

Hospital emergency rooms are overwhelmed with those seeking routine medical care. This transformative project’s health center will be designed to serve the most vulnerable and will decrease the burden on community resources while providing excellent care at a lower cost. The goal is to provide a multidisciplinary approach with health, mental health and addiction diagnosis and outpatient treatment for the neighborhood.

Jobs can provide renewed self-esteem and pride of self-sufficiency and there is a gap in the availability of trained skilled labor in the region.

The SoNo Life Center project will bring together evidence based practices that combine, housing, healthcare and job training for those living in poverty and the homeless.


Imagine the transformational impact this project will have on our shared community. Those most in need, the area’s chronically homeless and working poor, need your support. Your commitment to this vital project combined with help from foundation, corporate, and government funders will give South Norwalk a boost in promoting a stable, safe and caring environment in which to live.

Since 1983, The Open Door Shelter has saved lives and changed lives … one person at a time, by providing multiple services for homeless and low income men, women, and families, including: emergency shelter, food, clothing, job training, supportive housing and case management. “One person one plan” is the mantra of The Open Door Shelter. Focused plans give individuals and families a true opportunity to succeed.

This initiative will wrap home, health and hope for those living in South Norwalk all into one.

Your support will build lives and transform the community … one person at a time.

For more information:
Jeannette Archer-Simons

Executive Director
203-866-1057 x11 or 203-671-9773 (cell)