Tucked in the northern tip of affluent Glastonbury, lies a low-income community known as Welles Village. The Village is home to 199 single and double apartments residences for those who have incomes of less than $44,650*. According to City-Data.com, the average household income in Glastonbury in 2015 was $110,641. Each applicant needs an in person interview.* Each unit contains a refrigerator, a washer and a dryer hook ups.* This project is administered by the Housing Authority of the Town of Glastonbury which was formed in 1943. The administrative offices are located in a long white building in 25 Risley Road, Glastonbury. Complete with a towering flag pole and small tower sticking out from its center, 25 Risley Road appears like a building wanting attention. The Village is surrounded by forest and is in close proximity to Naubuc Elementary School and the downtown area. Rents are income based.
Through the help of a family friend, Abel Periche, a long time resident of the community, I was able to get in contact with several of Welles Villages’ contacts.
Resident Mie Lao, mother to two sons, initially came to Welles Village after she was unable to find a job. She and her husband, who was employed, decided to stay in Welles Village so Mie could have more time to find employment. She said she planned to stay in her current residence for five more years so she can buy a house. She said there was a lot for residents to foster a sense of community, particularly among the young. Her youngest son, after ending his school day at Naubuc, goes to an after-school program on Wednesdays in the administrative building where he participates in activities such as making crafts or learning computer skills. Lao, a native speaker of Mandarin, goes to the administrative building as well to take English as a Second Language (ESL) classes which facilitates her interaction with others, as she said that was the language barrier was the largest obstacle preventing her from being hired.
Estefania Gonzalez was another mother in the neighborhood. Having two bustling kids, she described the neighborhood in positive light with “nice kids”. Living with her two children, her husband and mother, she also hopes to buy a house one day. She suggested more activities for the kids.
Gustavo Herrera, a father of three noted the strong sense of community. “We all try to protect each other, and when I’m out, I tell my neighbor to look out for my car, I feel secure”. Despite those statements, as well as stating that police regularly patrol the area, Herrera did note so small inconveniences, such as having objects left in the yard “disappear’ sometimes. Herrera suggested that installing video cameras would be a good idea. Herrera, who was born in Peru, loves the global feel of the community, saying he has friends from countries as diverse as China, India and Russia, making local barbeques feel like a mass gathering of cultures. Herrera, previously a resident of Hartford, first found out about the community after his landlord told him it was a good place for education. “Out of 10 I heard this place was a 10″, Herrera said of education. With his oldest daughter being four at the time, Herrera decided to visit the administrative building to fill out the application. While they initially told him he was to be in the waiting list of one year, they called him after only 20 days, which he described as lucky. Now a decade later and with his eldest in high school, Herrera says he has no regrets in moving here. However, he stated that he hopes this isn’t his final residence. “I don’t want to stay here forever, I want to buy a house!” However, he says he remains fond of the Housing Authority’s overall mission,“Welles Village is a great idea because it helps a lot of communities”.
Executive Director Neil Griffin said that Welles Village was originally designed to house returning veterans from World War Two. In the 1970s, the property ceased being owned solely the Housing Authority and was started being also administered by The US Department of Housing and Development (HUD). With many of the residents in Welles Village being immigrants, HUD requires people with limited English proficiency, to have such services such as a translator to help facilitate communication. Griffin also talked about the close relations between the Housing Authority with the separate Town of Glastonbury. The Town of Glastonbury frequently has programs in the Risley Road building, such as after school programs administered by Glastonbury Youth and Family Services. Griffin sees Welles Village as important as it gives an opportunity for many families to move to a great town. “A lot of people I’ve talked to in the community, that are perhaps a generation older than me, this is where they first lived with their children, and then they moved on to buy homes in the community.”
Old photographs stored inside the administrative building show Welles Village in its beginning in the 1940s. Much wider spaces separated the newly constructed dwellings along newly planted grass. 25 Risley Road had a slide at its backyard, now generators stand in its place. One thing that haven’t changed however, were bicycles. The only vehicle evident in any of the photos was a lone bicycle, even today, bicycles are a more common sight than cars as you walk past Welles Village.
In addition to Welles Village, Griffin said the Housing Authority manages 460 units at 4 different sites across Glastonbury. While all of the Welles Village units are designed for families while another site, Center Village is focused on housing the elderly. There are currently 683 residents living among the 412 units across the four properties. The Housing Authority host a monthly meeting that’s open to the public on the third Wednesday of each month at 5:45.*
*From the Housing Authority of the Town of Glastonbury website