At the end of one of the quieter streets in the heart of Jamaica Plain, the three-story building looks no different from others nearby. Well over 100 years old, it has a stone foundation, bay windows and a classic central entrance. It was recently renovated inside — including the installation of a new kitchen, tiled bathrooms, hardwood floors and central air conditioning.
What makes this building different from its neighbors is that this is a safe house for runaways and homeless youth. Recently leased by the youth services organization, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, it joins other refuges that dot a Jamaica Plain community that has a tradition of extending a hand to others in need.
“We are blessed to have it,” said Elizabeth Jackson, executive director for Bridge Over Troubled Waters, adding that staff has begun welcoming individuals and families into the desperately needed living space.
Jackson credits a local real estate development firm, City Realty, for working with her to make the home a reality. City Realty recently purchased the aging building, then began renovations. When City’s managing partner Fred Starikov, learned of the group’s plight, he engineered an agreement with the organization to lease the newly refurbished facility on favorable terms.
According to Starikov, the initiative is part of an ongoing effort by the firm to assist community organizations with housing for those most in need. The home is the third such agreement the company has signed this year, joining another home in Jamaica Plain which is occupied by families being assisted by Children’s Services of Roxbury, as well as a single room occupancy house in Roxbury operated by the Pine Street Inn.
“This has been a great partnership,” said Jackson. "And it’s allowed us to continue to provide our services without interruption.”
Starikov said that during their years in the real estate business, he and his partner Steve Whalen have seen firsthand how rapid changes in the real estate market can be difficult for residents of all income levels. Together they developed an approach to affordability for lower- and middle-income tenants that includes subsidized housing, individual affordability agreements, and partnerships with a organizations such as Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Children Services of Roxbury, Heading Home, Hildebrand Family Self Help, Casa Nueva Vida, Home Start and Pine Street Inn.
Starikov notes that the company currently provides over 220 units of affordable housing, and 30% of their rental properties are leased at below-market rates.
“We are dedicated to being a positive force in our community and part of that is partnering with great organizations like Bridge over Troubled Waters,” he said. “We hope our efforts can serve as an example for other landlords and local businesses to get more involved with the often overlooked and underserved members of the community.”
Back at the group home in Jamaica Plain, a staff moderator said the youths have transitioned well into the new facility. Said the unnamed staff member due to safety precautions, “There was a lot of hard work that went into the renovation of the home, as well as by our staff to make this a reality.” He expressed hope that some local residents and businesses will be willing to assist Bridge Over Troubled Waters by creating short-term projects or long-term career opportunities so that the young people he works with can change their lives.
“This is only the start, but it’s a new start for them,” he said.