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St. Petersburg Free Clinic opens revamped women’s residence

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There’s about to be a lot more room at the St. Petersburg Free Clinic Women’s Residence.

Doors to a brand-new 50-resident living facility open later this month near downtown St. Petersburg, at 814 4th Avenue North. Leaders and key donors from the St. Pete Free Clinic celebrated the building’s completion Thursday night with a ribbon cutting and reception. The facility took about a year to complete and cost $4 million. Another nearly $1 million will go into reserves for maintenance and operational expenses.

“Often, women come through that door, and it’s not a good time in their life,” said Beth Houghton, executive director of the St. Pete Free Clinic. “But, they do the work, and they work together, and they work with our staff, and end up […] becoming something beautiful, and strong, and empowered.”

The the women’s residence receives about 1,800 inquiries each year, and has been open since 1989.

The new facility will house more than double that of the two homes previously on site, which only fit 20 at a time.

As is stated on the Free Clinic’s website, “Each woman arrives with her own history and story of what forced her into homelessness. Many are mothers, sisters and wives who are reunited with their families as a result of our program.”

The women’s residence program includes a complete, comprehensive program individualized for each woman. It also includes weekly meetings with personal case workers to track progress. Each woman is also required to complete a 90-day probationary period.

The Free Clinic also aims to remain connected with each woman upon completion of the program. The idea is to continue providing support, if necessary, so the girls can remain independent.

Throughout the new facility is quilt-themed art-work, which serves a a type of symbolic message for all those who arrive.

“As you look around this house, you will see that the art work on all of the walls are quilts,” continued Houghton. “And it seems very fitting, as quilts have really come from bits and pieces that are all but thrown away. But then through artistry, and work, and passion, and community, they come together to make something beautiful.”

The facility is named after major donors David Baldwin and his late wife Virginia.

Devon Crumpacker is a Tampa Bay based writer and reporter for Extensive Enterprises Media. He primarily covers Pinellas County politics for SaintPetersblog.com, but also makes time to write the occasional bar review for FloridaBarTab.com. He lives in St. Petersburg with his fiance, Sydney. To contact, e-mail devon@floridapolitics.com, or visit his Twitter page @DevonCrumpacker.

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