Before entering shelter, Esther, Wilson, and their two children, Farah and Samuel* came to Boston in the wake of the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. They lived comfortably in Haiti; Wilson was an engineer and they owned their own home. After a forced relocation, they were offered housing in a couple of friends’ apartment. Esther and Wilson both had temporary jobs at a candy factory, but were unable to live off this pay alone. Eventually, the overcrowded apartment made for a difficult living situation and their friends asked them to leave.
During their first few nights of homelessness, the family slept in their church, and were soon placed in a hotel in Belmont through the Department of Community and Housing Development. Although they were safe, this living arrangement proved challenging. All four members of the family were living in one room that lacked a kitchen, forcing them to eat costly, less nutritious take-out food daily. Another drawback was the location; the children were enrolled in Boston public schools and transportation to and from Belmont was inconsistent and hard to navigate, especially since neither Esther nor Wilson spoke English fluently. The final straw came when Farah, then 8, had an allergic reaction to a chemical used to clean the carpets.
In January 2014, one of Hildebrand’s emergency shelter scattered sites opened, and the family was transferred into a fully equipped apartment in Dorchester. Reflecting on her experiences, Esther called it “two completely different things.” She and her family were so happy with their new space because it provided more freedom being closer to public transportation and their children’s school. She noted, “It was closer to church, easier to find employment, and closer to friends and family.” Esther was especially happy to have a kitchen to prepare homemade meals for her family. “Living in Dorchester made a big difference,” said Wilson.
While at Hildebrand, Wilson found stable employment as a prep-cook, working 35 hours per week. In September 2015, the family received a section 8 voucher and applied to live in our newest unit of permanent, subsidized housing on Norfolk Street, which was acquired in July of 1998 and provided emergency shelter to families experiencing homelessness there until it was converted into affordable housing in 2015. Esther and Wilson were interviewed and selected to be the first family to move into Norfolk Street this past November.
Living in permanent housing allows their children to participate in school sponsored activities like basketball and dance. Esther said her children love their new home “because they have their own rooms.” Currently, Esther is enrolled in an English as a Second Language course at Roxbury Madison Park School, and is eager to have better access to future employment.
In five years, they hope to be even more financially secure. Wilson’s goal is “to be able to support our children going to school [for higher education] and to [be able to] support themselves.” When asked what advice they would give to a new family joining Hildebrand, Esther asserted, “Follow the social workers lead.” Wilson echoed that sentiment saying follow their guidance and you’ll find success.
* Names changed to maintain the client’s confidentiality