Residents urge reopening of center for Dixwell youth

More than 100 people gathered Thursday night at the Wexler/Grant School in Dixwell for an informational meeting about the future of the Dixwell Community House, popularly known as the Q House.

The Q House, founded in 1924 by leading members of the New Haven community as a haven and after-school social center for city youth, closed two and a half years ago in the face of mounting fiscal and managerial problems.

Since then, Dixwell community groups and individuals have been agitating for it to reopen. Residents and prominent community members recently formed the Concerned Citizens for the Dixwell Community House group to further press their cause. The group plans to hold regular meetings with members of the community to discuss exactly how to reopen the center and create a new vision for it.

Jacqueline Bracey, the group’s co-chair, said the basic idea behind the Q House remains a viable one.

“The concept of working with the community and servicing the community is just as viable today as it was before the Q House closed,” Bracey said.

The Q House closed after a steady deterioration of programs and services over a period of two years, eventually shutting its doors after it was no longer able to pay for the costs associated with heating and otherwise maintaining its building at 98 Dixwell Ave. On Aug. 18 of this year, the board of CCDCH met with Mayor John DeStefano Jr., and the two parties resolved to reopen the Q House as soon as possible.

Ward 22 Alderman the Rev. Drew King, who is a member of the CCDCH board and was present at the meeting Thursday, said he was confident the mayor wanted to help the concerned citizens’ cause.

“He is trying to help out the best he can to help the community reopen the Q House,” King said.

Karen Dubois-Walton ’89, the city’s chief administrative officer, said the city thought the Q House was important but could not be the only party responsible for rebuilding it.

“I think the Q House is important and presents a priority because it’s an institution in the community that has a long history and people feel strongly about,” Dubois-Walton said. “It’s something the city would like to be supportive of, but it’s not something the city can single-handedly take a role in unless the community and the members of the board are interested in it.”

The informational part of Thursday’s meeting, which opened with the introduction of board members and an extensive Powerpoint presentation, was followed by a public input session, during which community members, dignitaries and local clergy talked about their visions for the future of the Q House.

King said he had been involved in the Q House as a child and a teenager, and that its after-school activities and community support had helped form him as a person.

“There was an identification, an identity,” the Rev. King said. “I wasn’t just anybody, I was somebody.”

The Hon. John Daniels, the former mayor of New Haven who is also on the CCDCH board, said the board had yet to set a goal date for reopening the Q House. But Daniels said the time had come for an organization like the concerned citizens group.

“There needed to be an umbrella organization in the community to ensure that the Q House be open for the kids of this city,” Daniels said.

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