NEW BEDFORD — It's been a long time coming, but soon, the YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts will have all of its services "Under One Roof."

For years, the organization has been forced to have its afterschool child care and supportive housing for women programs in off-site facilities in other parts of the city. Within the next year, an addition will be completed to the YWCA's main building in order to bring everything together exactly as the project name states, under one roof.

"It's been a long road, and we've finally broken ground," YWCA Executive Director Gail Fortes told WBSM News. "I'm very excited to get this started."

Techncially, it will actually be under two roofs: the executive offices still remain in the Levi Standish House on South Sixth Street, and the new addition will be connected to the Standish House with an enclosed walkway that will also make the original building handicapped accessible for the first time.

The official groundbreaking took place Friday afternoon, with Mayor Jon Mitchell, Senator Mark Montigny and Representative Antonio Cabral among the dignitaries putting the first shovels into the dirt.

The new addition will be 6,500 square feet, and house Another Woman's Place, a residential program for low-income women age 18 and over, and YWkids, a school-age child care program for children ages 5-13. It will cost $4.2 million to build.

YWkids will be housed on the first floor of the addition. This new center will increase staff and child interaction, and produce higher educational and skill development outcomes. The YWCA will also remodel the lower level of Standish House to provide additional classroom and office space for YWkids. The new location will be carefully and specifically designed for age-appropriate educational activities for as many as 50 children. YWkids is currently housed at Campbell School in New Bedford.

"We provide transportation to the program from school, so picking up the kids and taking them (to Campbell School) has been a challenge," Fortes said.

The second floor of the addition will be the new home of Another Woman's Place; eight single-occupancy rooms of supportive permanent housing for women.

The journey to bring all the services "Under One Roof" began in 2002 with a feasability study.

"We were looking at the space, trying to decide if we wanted to stay downtown, if we wanted to build a brand new building, do we sell our current building?" Fortes said. "So that took a couple of years, that whole process, and they made the decision to stay downtown."

That led to the need to raise about $1 million to upgrade and restore the Levi Standish House, which was built in 1825.

"We had to make it water-tight, get it up to code with repair work and renovations," Fortes said. "And then for the addition, we had to figure out how to maximize our space, but still make sure it fits in with our historical building. So we started working on that in 2011, and raised the additional $4.2 million."

And Fortes said as great as it will be to have all of the services and participants on one campus, it'll make things a lot easier for the staff as well.

"The staff will all feel together, and won't be in separate locations. Sometimes it's challenging for us to all be together," she said. "But we can just walk across the walkway now."

Fortes said it should take about 10 months to complete construction, and expects to be able to utilize the addition in February 2019.

Courtesy YWCA