12 Apr 2024

Jenks Park Residence to Offer Transitional Housing, Educational Opportunities and Workforce Development for At-Risk Women and Their Children in Central Falls

Josh Pereira


The Papitto Opportunity Connection, City of Central Falls and the Central Falls Children’s Foundation announced the creation of Jenks Parks Residence, a unique transitional housing program that provides workforce development and educational opportunities, along with medical and mental health care. The 30-unit affordable living space, funded by a $1 million site acquisition investment from RIHousing, will specifically support mothers and children who are at risk of homelessness, providing them a rent-stabilized, fully furnished apartment with all utilities included for two years. This is the first primary-care medical clinic in Rhode Island to address housing in the community it serves by offering access to transitional housing and wrap around medical services onsite, and is the latest project in a unique public/private partnership between POC, Central Falls and the Central Falls Children’s Foundation.

“As one of the densest cities in America, Central Falls has been devastated by the wake of the pandemic – from our growing housing crisis to a surge in 9-1-1 calls for domestic violence help. I’ve seen firsthand the dire need women and children in our city have for safe, stable, supportive housing, and Icouldn’t be prouder of this historic moment and partnership with Dr. Nelken to bring this groundbreaking housing project to life,” said Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera. “This project wouldn’t have been possible without the generous financial support of Papitto Opportunity Connection and critical site acquisition funding from RIHousing. I know Jenks Park Residence is going to save and change lives.”

In Rhode Island, there are an estimated 1,800 people experiencing homelessness, and according to RI Kids Count, Central Falls had a reported 70children homeless in the 2021-2022 school year, with more than 10 percent living in extreme poverty.

“Our goal is to give women and children a safe space, where they can receive the support and resources they need to take care of themselves and their families,” said Dr. Beata Nelken, founder of Central Falls Children’s Foundation and Jenks Park Pediatrics, who will oversee the project. “Providing access to stable housing with quality medical care, and the social services these at-risk populations need, is crucial to the long-term well-being of these families and will create systemic change.”

Located across the street from Central Falls City Hall, Jenks Park Residence will re-purpose a former assisted living facility. The 10,000-sq-foot space features a community kitchen with daily evening meals, a library, play areas for kids, and a computer lab for workforce development. Residents will be able to access women’s health care, mental health services, and pediatric medical services. In addition, the Papitto Opportunity Connection is funding wrap around services focused on job training, educational opportunities, immigration and legal assistance, and more.

“RIHousing was happy to provide the City of Central Falls with over $1 million from our Site Acquisition Program, funded by State Fiscal Recovery Funds, to acquire the blighted properties that are now the Jenks Park Residence,” said Carol Ventura, CEO of RIHousing. “We’re excited to have played a role in the creation of a safe space that combines affordable housing and healthcare. Access to the supportive services provided here will be critical for the wellbeing of vulnerable families as they transition through Jenks Park.”

Jenks Park Residence is a culmination of a unique public-private partnership between the City of Central Falls, Central Falls Children’s Foundation and the Papitto Opportunity Connection that began in 2021. By the end of 2024, POC will have invested more than $2 million in the Central Falls Children’s Foundation to improve health outcomes and the lives of women and children in Central Falls.

“Mayor Rivera and Dr. Nelken saw a pressing need for women and children in Central Falls and moved quickly to address it,” said Barbara Papitto, founder of the Papitto Opportunity Connection. “Their efforts are inspiring and emblematic of the kinds of programs Papitto Opportunity Connection is dedicated to investing in. I am thrilled that we can help make their vision a reality.”

In 2022, because of the POC investment in the Central Falls Children’s Foundation for vaccinations and testing, Central Falls gained herd immunity from COVID-19 after having one of the highest positivity rates in the country. Additionally, targeted POC investments in Central Falls spearheaded the enrollment of more than 1,000 children in the state’s RIte Care program, which provides children with free access to medical care.

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