By Courteney Coyne
March 6, 2009
Mi CASA Family Service and Educational Center, Inc. vision is to conserve and strengthen the cultural and social foundations of Hartford’s families in a multicultural environment.
The primary focus of Mi Casa is to improve the quality of life for traditionally underserved groups of Puerto Rican and Latino adolescents and their families in the central and south neighborhoods of Hartford. The primary objective of Mi Casa is to reduce youth involvement in gangs, violence and other dangerous activities after school hours, by providing structured, positive youth development programs, prevention, recreational and supports services in place of unsupervised time that urban youth face without their own place or space and with nothing to do (http://www.micasainc.org).
Like the organization Mi Casa, the building is open to the public. The services provided by Mi Casa are culturally oriented toward high need Latino families in Hartford, but “no one will be turned away because of their race, ethnic, group, language, or beliefs” (http://www.micasainc.org).
The Mi Casa Organization began in 1992 as CMAY, (Case Management for Adjudicated Youth) a Hartford community program that provided intervention services for adolescents in Frog Hollow who were involved in drug related problems. In 1992 CMAY opened its doors in a Broad Street location near the Park Street intersection. CMAY rapidly outgrew the space and relocated to another space on Park St. near the intersection of Affleck St. and later to 590 Park St.
The building at 590 Park St. was constructed in 1920, and maintains its original three story brick front. It is separated from the street by side walk, and is set back six to eight feet from Park St. The building is physically connected to the other buildings on the side of the street, in the same way that Mi Casa is connected to the Park Street community. The front of the building is comprised of ground to ceiling windows covered with a colorful mural, which represents three stages of Puerto Rican development. The first presents natives dressed in loincloths on undeveloped land. The second panel displays a portrait of ships and the beginning of development. The third panel paints a picture of a highly developed landscape in which tall modern buildings and a large population are displayed. The inside environment is welcoming, gently worn, showing a bit of wear and tear and obviously well used, but in good condition. People of all ages utilize the building; youth are engaged in leadership development and recreational activities, young adults are in ESL or GED classes, and adults are in parent action and advocacy classes taking advantage of referral services. The atmosphere is casual and individuals are constantly entering and exiting the center. The floor layout is has been designed to accommodate many different activities simultaneously, tables are arranged to encourage work and activities and free space is available for choice activities.
Park Street has been referred to as New England’s Hispanic Main Street and boasts the flavor of Latino culture. Park Street is a global community that connects the city of Hartford to the Latino world. There are markets that sell goods and food of Latin American countries. It is evident that the citizens of park Street are revitalizing the area with energy and devotion to the cause of Latino unity. The vision for Park Street includes many aspects of Latino countries, including public areas to be shared for conversation and personal interaction. The influence of these Latino countries is obvious. The street boasts bright colors resembling those of the Caribbean, Latin music can be heard from within stores and cars driving by. Individuals of all ages are engaged in what Park St. offers, children and adults walking together, friends standing in conversation and adults busy on their way to and from work. In every storefront window there are flags of Latino countries and other symbols of home country pride as well as symbols of Christian worship.