SCHENECTADY — Serena Radez had hit bottom after struggling with substance abuse.
She arrived at City Mission almost exactly a year ago from a halfway house in Amsterdam.
“I just wanted a better life for me and my son,” Radez said. “I knew my life was going nowhere.”
Now after graduating from the Mission’s long-term life skills program, Radez, 43, is poised to move into a new downtown townhouse apartment.
City Mission recently completed construction on eight new units of transitional housing at the corner of Smith and Lafayette streets.
The apartments are intended for mission residents who have made sufficient progress clawing their way back from the challenges that led to homelessness, from domestic violence to substance abuse, and are able to live on their own in a supportive environment.
“We’re celebrating a warm, safe place to be,” said City Mission CEO and Executive Director Michael Saccocio on Thursday while unveiling the new units.
The complex is geared toward graduates of mission programming who are single adults or parents with young children like Radez, whose son is 6.
With close proximity to the City Mission, the apartments allow residents to live independently, but also provide nearby support, giving them a network to tap into as they start jobs and access resources to help them work toward long-term sustainability.
The housing is transitional, which means Radez and other tenants will eventually move on to outside housing.
The project, constructed by Mission Builders, cost $1.2 million, all of which was raised from private fundraising.
“The building is completely paid for,” Saccocio said. “The best smile of all is no mortgage.”
The 1,125-square-foot apartments at 297 Lafayette St. will join 24 existing units of transitional housing next to the Mission’s complex of office, dining, residential and worship space.
A planned second phase across Lafayette Street will ultimately provide 34 additional units.
Many of those utilizing City Mission programming work downtown, and the proximity removes another potential roadblock to sustainability.
“Some of the barriers are transportation and affordable housing,” Saccocio said. “So if we can have them live here and walk to work, we can eliminate those barriers.”
All tenants will be required to participate in ongoing training programs, including money management classes, and hold down a steady job.
Radez, who currently resides in a shelter, works at a thrift shop in Glenville.
“I’m lucky to start my life again,” she said. “It gives me purpose.”