Holiday Reflection on Shelter and Housing

By Shiela Y. Moore

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This is the time of year when I, along with many in faith and non-faith-based communities, reflect on the human condition, dating back to the birth of Jesus Christ who himself was born in a barn because there was “no room at the inn.”  

Most of us have known the story of “the Savior’s birth” since childhood. We presumed that if there had been room available, his parents, Mary and Joseph, would have surely been able to afford to stay there. As a child, that was as far as my imagination took me in thinking about the family’s circumstance at that moment. It seemed to me that Mary, Joseph and Jesus simply needed temporary shelter during their travels. They were in a temporary, extraordinary circumstance most likely not to be repeated. Children were taught that the moral of the story is to appreciate humble beginnings and to take care of others, especially in their greatest moment of need. What if the need is not so temporary?
For the families supported by Hildebrand, staying in shelter is not quite temporary. It continues for well over a year, on average 15 months. For others, it is not even their first time in shelter. Yet, as a society, we want to move on, believing that life will get better for them. It often does for individual families yet in the grand scheme of the human condition, poverty persists, as does homelessness. Although we are now well beyond the birth of Jesus Christ, we still depend upon each other for many things, including shelter.  
This year, Hildebrand continued to move beyond the provision of shelter. Our strategic objective has been to expand access to permanent housing and we recently purchased an 11-unit apartment building in Dorchester, which doubled our affordable housing capacity to 22. The building (formerly owned by Sojourner House, Inc.) is subsidized with public and private funding from state and local sources, which is what is required if communities are to provide permanent homes to those who cannot afford them on their own.

Similar to families long ago, even if parents are working, there are times when life circumstances bring them to a place where they need help. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, $32,430 is what a family will need to make annually in order not to spend more than 30% of their income on a 2-bedroom apartment. In Boston, it’s higher. In recent years, Hildebrand families made an average of $12.00 an hour and although wages are now on the rise, historically, individuals have found their work hours limited by their employer or because of lack of childcare. All families are paying a portion of their income to housing, but obviously cannot afford housing without help from their community.  

We are not an inn but do provide shelter and affordable housing; Hildebrand’s vision is every family has a home. Our work helps to alleviate some of the challenges in the human condition, and offer help – and hope – along their journey. That is worth reflecting on at this time of year.

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season.

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Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center, Inc. partners with families experiencing homelessness. We provide shelter, permanent housing, work readiness programs, and life skill development. We restore hope and build brighter futures.