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Ward 7 Councillor Simonelli working on initiative to help community access resources

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Malden Collaborative is in early stages; would connect residents to existing agencies, groups, training

  As they say, it is a tall task to try and be all things to all people. Chris Simonelli says the city where he grew up is driving him to give it a try.

  “We need to all work together to not only grow our community,” the Ward 7 Councillor said. “We have to really address how we can instill a sense of community with our people that live here.”

  Councillor Simonelli may have just returned to the City Council after a decade-plus absence, but he’s been a Malden resident all along.

Simonelli: ‘Malden’s made me and I will never forget that’

  “Malden’s made me and I will never forget that,” he added, “and I am going to work my hardest to try and show our residents, whether they have been here for years or maybe just came here from another country, what this city is all about.”

  To that end, Councillor Simonelli said, he is nearing fruition on a multifaceted initiative that will begin in his Ward 7, but he believes it has citywide potential. In fact, he is banking on that concept. Already, he has had initial meetings with both Malden Mayor Gary Christenson and representatives from an interested corporate partnering sponsor, WinnDevelopment of Boston. A more intensive meeting with mayoral staff, where more details will be discussed with additional confirmed and potential stakeholders, is planned within the next week, Simonelli said.

  WinnDevelopment is a corporate affiliate of WinnCompanies, which owns and operates Bowdoin Apartments, one of Malden’s affordable housing developments, which is situated on 10 acres bounded by Lisbon and Bowdoin Streets in Ward 7.

Did not have to look far for potential sponsor

  Councillor Simonelli did not have to look too far before approaching a potential corporate sponsor for his new initiative, which is tentatively called Malden Collaborative. He lives in the Bowdoin Street Apartments himself and has formerly lived in the 250-unit Newland Street affordable housing development.

  Together with the 263-unit Bowdoin Street Apartments, over 500 Malden families live in those two housing developments alone in Simonelli’s represented ward. “That is a lot of families, and the way I look at it, a lot of families that could use access to programs offering assistance and resources,” Councillor Simonelli said.

  The Ward 7 Councillor served in the late 1990s and 2000s before returning to the City Council by winning the seat vacated by former Councillor Neal Anderson in the 2021 municipal election.

  One of the first proposals on his drawing board when he returned to the Council was to explore the implementation of a Ward 7-based Community Center, offering programming, training for jobs and other goals and access to a number of resources for residents. Simonelli explained he and his supporters initially eyed the potential of the Temple Ezrath Israel building – 245 Bryant St., in the heart of Ward 7 – as a possible site.

Affordable housing conversion is planned

  A new focus on that building as conversion to affordable housing using city resources for acquisition and renovation changed those plans.

  Most recently, Councillor Simonelli said he is now pursuing the Malden Collaborative concept. In doing so, at the advice of municipal administrators, he said, he has begun discussions with a linkup to the state-funded MassHousing Tenant Assistance Program (TAP). The Malden Collaborative would initially be a local member site for MassHousing TAP. Available to all housing developments, TAP offers member sites unlimited access to trainings, a choice of diverse programs and workshops for residents and assistance in developing and maintaining new programs that may uniquely fit a specific community and its residents.

  Simonelli said WinnDevelopment, the Bowdoin Street Apartments’ owner, has already pledged some seed money to get the ball rolling on Malden Collaborative. Simonelli said the City of Malden is assisting him in seeking other funding sources as well, including the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal grant allocation.

MassHousing TAP Program is coming

  “There is really no limit on the type of assistance we could offer to our Ward 7 residents beyond,” Simonelli said.

  The Ward 7 Councillor said another aspect of the MassHousing TAP program is the assistance in guiding the local program – in this case the planned Malden Collaborative – in “tapping” into existing programs in the community. “We are looking at hooking up with as many Malden programs already out there as we believe can be helpful to our residents,” Simonelli said. “I think we can help people from as young as infants and their mothers all the way up to senior citizens.”

  Councillor Simonelli said he has already had discussions with representatives of such major potential municipal partners as the Malden Senior Center, Malden Recreation Department and Malden Teen Enrichment Center (MTEC), as well as Housing Families Inc., Malden Overcoming Addiction (MOA) and the Bridge Recovery Center.

  In addition to trainings and information, Simonelli said, the plan is to coordinate singular events such as sports-related tournaments and also diverse events involving live music and other performances. “Kids, especially teens, love music, that’s a fact,” Simonelli said. “We want to reach them where they are at. We would also like to introduce our residents to sports they might not be familiar with in their original countries. Baseball, basketball and other sports. We plan on having instructional camps and special days. It’s all in there.”

  “If our residents do not know about the resources, programming and assistance they are able to access, they are going to know about it very soon with this project,” Simonelli said. “We are very excited about this and it will be available to anyone who wants help, information or just being part of something, or having something to do.”

  Councillor Simonelli said he plans on rolling out more definitive information on Malden Collaborative by early June, with some programming available as early as this summer.

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