Building Lives Initiative
Open Door Shelter is proud to have opened the Smilow Life Center, a comprehensive service center which will transform South Norwalk and impact the lives of the area’s most vulnerable citizens. The project leverages gifts from individual benefactors as well as grants from the Connecticut Department of Housing and other public agencies. It brings together the support of other non-profits and public service agencies to help ensure the health, job training, and housing needs of the area are met.


A historic 19th century, 19,800 square foot factory building just one block from Open Doors’ shelter has been adaptively restored to deliver services that will transform the neighborhood. The building will encompass three distinct centers to address the housing needs of the community, provide localized health services and offer living wage job training and placement.

• Sixteen efficiency apartments —
Provide individuals with their own home in a supportive environment. Working in partnership with Norwalk Hospital, two of these units are the first off-site medical respite units for individuals who require medical monitoring.

• A neighborhood health center —
The center will take a multidisciplinary approach to routine medical needs, mental health and substance abuse addiction diagnosis and outpatient treatment.

• A job training facility —
Give individuals of all ages an opportunity to gain skills to earn a living wage. The program is being developed in collaboration with skilled trade organizations, colleges and other non-profits and will include high-tech training and classrooms designed to support trades skills education, GED programs, college entry classes, and support for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Now that the Smilow Life Center’s construction has been completed on budget and funding goals are achieved, funds are being designated for the development of additional housing for families and reserves for the community services provided by Open Doors.


No single project will have a greater impact on the lives of the working poor and homeless of South Norwalk than the Smilow Life Center. More than 29% of the families living in the greater Norwalk area have been identified as struggling to survive or as the working poor, and some are homeless. This project will serve the working poor, low-income individuals and families, and the homeless community.

There is not a single reason that an individual or a family becomes homeless or lives a life in poverty.

There is however an array of problems that creates the conditions which place people at risk including: housing shortages, deinstitutionalization, education failure, inadequate income, illness and lack of access to consistent healthcare, disability, substance abuse, and domestic violence, among others. In a recent study by the United Way of Connecticut, the top ten unmet needs all related to housing, case management and homeless services.

Hospital emergency rooms are overwhelmed with those seeking routine medical care. There is a lack of detox treatment available to those in need. This transformative project’s health center will be designed to serve the most vulnerable and will decrease the burden on community resources while providing excellent care at a lower cost. The goal is to provide a multidisciplinary approach with health, mental health and addiction diagnosis and outpatient treatment for the neighborhood.

Jobs can provide renewed self-esteem and pride of self-sufficiency and there is a gap in the availability of trained skilled labor in the region.

The Smilow Life Center project will bring together evidence-based practices that combine, housing, healthcare, and job training for those living in poverty and the homeless.


Imagine the transformational impact this project will have on our shared community. Those most in need, the area’s chronically homeless and working poor, need your support. Your commitment to this vital project combined with help from foundation, corporate, and government funders will give South Norwalk a boost in promoting a stable, safe and caring environment in which to live.

Since 1983, Open Doors has saved lives and changed lives … one person at a time, by providing multiple services for homeless and low income men, women, and families, including: emergency shelter, food, clothing, job training, supportive housing and case management. “One person, one plan” is the mantra of Open Doors. Focused plans give individuals and families a true opportunity to succeed.

This initiative will wrap home, health, and hope for those living in South Norwalk all into one.

Your support will build lives and transform the community … one person at a time.

For more information:
Corky Stewart

Executive Director
203-866-1057 x111