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An eastern Henrico farmhouse is restored to help raise another, even needier generation.

Starter Home

Ailine Hilliard Binns was nine years old when her father built the family's barns and farmhouse in eastern Henrico County.

That was in 1926.

Nearly 75 years later, the Hilliard house again will be filled with the sounds of young children. But they will not be Mrs. Binns' grandkids, or great-grandkids.

Instead, the family home she sold to the county about six years ago has been restored as Henrico's first emergency shelter for homeless women and their children.

"I think it's a very good idea," Mrs. Binns says. "I hope it will meet with the neighbors all right."

Hilliard House next month will open to shelter up to 30 homeless county women and children, says Elizabeth Palen, executive director of Henrico Community Housing Corp., which manages the home on Nine Mile Road near the Eastern Henrico Government Center.

Palen says meetings with neighbors, and the fact that Hilliard House is tied to the nearby government center, have alleviated concerns. Hilliard House will combine emergency and transitional shelter functions, she says, "the first of its kind in Henrico County."

St. Joseph's Villa, the county's other facility for homeless women and children and an advisor on the Hilliard House project, provides transitional shelter, a spokeswoman says. Though safehouses have opened recently in Henrico for victims of domestic violence, there has been no emergency shelter for the county's homeless and Hillard House "fills a gap in services," Palen says.

Though residents at both St. Joseph's Villa and Hilliard House can stay as long as two years, Palen stresses the goal is to get them "moving onward to self-sufficiency." At Hilliard House, women and children may simply show up and will be admitted without a referral from another social services agency if there is space for them, but homeless mothers will have to meet with a social worker within 48 hours to make a "life plan" for self-sufficiency, Palen says. Hilliard House will provide classes in parenting, household planning, nutrition and related skills to help.

The home is on the bus line and features 10 bedrooms, each with adjoining bathrooms. Common living areas include a children's play area, living room and classrooms. "The respect and dignity of the women and children who will live here is reflected in the architecture," Palen says. It took three years and $1.4 million to restore the house and adjoining structures. The funds came from the federal government and local corporations and foundations, Palen says, while the county leased the 17,000-square-foot home and 3.5-acre property to Henrico Community Housing Corp. for $1 a year.

The project's numerous participants will celebrate its completion at a July 25 ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"It's an excellent start," says a formerly homeless mother who serves on the HCHC board. She and her two young daughters spent part of 1997 and 1998 at St. Joseph's Villa, she says. "It's an opportunity to get your life back. It's a foundation, a new

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