Greene County has taken a major step toward providing transitional housing for individuals left temporarily homeless.
Last week, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at Whitehill Place, a large building on East High Street in Waynesburg that formerly served as a doctor’s office. The building has been converted into a six-unit apartment building at a cost exceeding three-quarters of a million dollars.
That may sound like a lot of money, and it is, but the conversion was worth every penny.
What impressed us last week during the ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony was that, first of all, this transitional house did not come about overnight, and second off all, in order to make this transitional house a reality, numerous agencies and individuals jumped in to contribute to make sure this did indeed become a reality.
It was Brian Hudson Sr., executive director and CEO of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, who said it best: “This is a great example of a private/public partnership.” Communities and governments looking for a blueprint of such a partnership need look no further that the building East High Street.
Karen Bennett, the administrator for Greene County’s department of human services was the first to admit she had no experience in the bricks-and-mortar housing business, but she knew the opportunity was there to bring transitional housing to Greene County. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and the Department of Community and Economic Development came to the table with emergency shelter money just at the time the commissioners bought the property in December 2010. The organization Connect Inc. agreed to manage whatever program was established, but as time marched on many challenges emerged because the county owned the building, which meant meeting regulations, county codes and other issues.
Bennett specifically recognized Ken Kulak, “an amazing architect,” and the process of bidding and awarding the project to a general contractor was accomplished. The contract was awarded to Waller Corp. and their work began in June 2012. The building that now contains the apartments was built just a little over 200 years ago and Kulak, being familiar with the restoration of old houses, took great care in the structure’s architectural design.
Things continued to proceed toward a completion date of November 2012, until Hurricane Sandy pounded the East Coast. All the electricity needed to be turned off for the electricians to do their final work, but all the electrical crews from Southwestern Pennsylvania had been dispatched to New Jersey or New York. Enter the politicians. Sharon Willison, an assistant to state Sen. Tim Solobay, made a call and an electrician became available the next day. The pieces of this puzzle finally fell into place and those involved with this project deserve all the credit that is due them.
Whitehill Place is something Greene County and the region should take pride in, and can serve as an example to other communities.