By the time he was 15, Orion Bustamante had seen the ups and downs of life — his father went to jail, his mother was left without a job and he and his two younger brothers felt the fright of losing their home and going to live in a shelter.
After two years of struggle, reuniting with his father and seeing his mom succeed in a job at Goodwill Industries, Orion now has a reason to smile: Wednesday marked the grand opening of a brand-new Long Island City apartment building, erected by the nonprofit Hour Children, and which Orion now calls home.
“In my life I have learned some valuable lessons. One of them is that life is much like an arrow,” Orion said. “An arrow can only be fired by shooting it backwards, so when life is dragging you back it only means that you are about to be launched into something great.”
The teen’s family is one of 18 that have moved into the Hour Apartment House III (HAHIII), a permanent supportive housing residence which brings together and helps stabilize families of the formerly incarcerated.
“The construction of HAHIII represents our commitment to the women of Hour Children who have worked so hard to transform their lives and those of their children,” said Executive Director Sister Tesa Fitzgerald during the HAHIII ribbon-cutting on May 7. “It stands as a testimony to the fact that lasting, positive change is possible when women receive the support needed to rebuild their lives.”
The building at 36-11 12th St., made up of two-and three-bedroom apartments and lower-level office space, is Hour Children’s seventh and largest residence in Long Island City. Each apartment was designed to meet the needs and likes of each mother and her children, officials said.
Hour Children is a nonprofit agency that provides services, such as mentoring, job training, after-school programs and more, to help over 4,500 incarcerated and formerly jailed women and their children successfully rejoin the community, reunite with families, and build independent and secure lives. The nonprofit provides housing to about 80 families involved in the programs.
“It is one thing to provide housing; it is another to provide housing that affords dignity. Dignity is so important,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “The apartments are beautiful, the furniture is gorgeous and the mothers and the children are able to experience this transition and gain the power of dignity and that is transformative.”
For more information on Hour Children, visit www.hourchildren.org or call 718-433-4724.