Author: Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center

2020 Back to School Campaign

This year, “back to school” means something very different to students of all ages than it did last September. The COVID-19 pandemic is still wreaking havoc on planning – summer plans changed; jobs changed; child care changed; grocery shopping changed; socializing and getting together changed. So much change! Not much looks the same right now as it did a year ago. But there are still things that haven’t changed, and that you can still rely on! And Hildebrand’s connection to children and families is top of that list. Hildebrand has always had a strong commitment to each and every school-age child in our programs that they will be prepared for school, ready to learn, and connected to education. Everyone is still waiting to see what “back to school” means: virtual? In-classroom? A hybrid of both? Of the 224 children currently in shelter at Hildebrand, 87 are ages 5-12 and 47 are ages 13-17. There are also 90 children ages 0-4, and 14 ages 18-24. And Hildebrand provides resources for each and every one – resources that include clothing, school supplies, backpacks, and whatever else is needed. We make sure that each child has the supplies, resources, and support to fully engage and participate in a learning environment – wherever that may be this September.
Another thing that hasn’t changed? Hildebrand’s appreciation and gratitude for your support during these challenging and transitional times. Hildebrand relies on the generosity of donors – like you – who provide financial support for important resources for the homeless families in our shelters and program. Education is so important to economic stability and self-sufficiency. Your investment in the education of the children at Hildebrand is an investment in their futures, and we are so grateful for your contribution. So please take a moment today to click on the link below, make a contribution to Hildebrand’s 2020 “Back to School” Drive! We look forward to keeping you updated on the impact of your donation, and to sharing stories about how this new education experience works with our children.

HILDEBRAND FAMILY SELF-HELP CENTER awarded Cummings Grant; A leading family homelessness provider receives Cummings Foundation grant!

CAMBRIDGE, MAY 22, 2020 – Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center is one of 130 local nonprofits to receive grants of $100,000 to $500,000 each through Cummings Foundation’s $20 Million Grant Program. The Cambridge-based organization was chosen from a total of 738 applicants during a competitive review process.

Hildebrand partners with families experiencing homelessness, to help them gain more self-sufficiency on their journey. As one of the largest family shelter providers in Massachusetts, Hildebrand endeavors to break the cycle of homelessness by providing shelter, permanent housing, training and work readiness programs, and life skills development.

“Hildebrand operates 135 units of emergency shelter, and helps families overcome the barriers to securing housing,” said Shiela Y. Moore, Hildebrand’s CEO. “We approach each family’s situation as unique and believe every family has strengths upon which to build a brighter future. In the past 10 years, 763 families have moved from shelter to housing so we know our strengths-based programming truly works. We impact the long-term housing stability of the most vulnerable members of our community.” Hildebrand operates 11 units of permanent housing and places over 70 families a year into affordable housing throughout the Greater Boston area.

The Cummings support will allow families to continue to receive stabilization services for two years after they leave the emergency shelter program to ensure they remain stably housed. The stabilization program is designed to prevent the recurrence of homelessness. When families transition into permanent housing, Hildebrand works with the head of household to ensure they stay on course with their plan to increase economic mobility and avoid the pitfalls that may put the family’s housing at risk. “We are so grateful for this leadership support from Cummings Foundation, who share our vision and commitment to restore hope and build brighter futures,” said Moore.

The Cummings $20 Million Grant Program supports Massachusetts nonprofits that are based in and primarily serve Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties. Through this place-based initiative, Cummings Foundation aims to give back in the area where it owns commercial buildings, all of which are managed, at no cost to the Foundation, by its affiliate, Cummings Properties. Founded in 1970 by Bill Cummings, the Woburn-based commercial real estate firm leases and manages 10 million square feet of debt-free space, the majority of which exclusively benefits the Foundation.

“We have been impressed, but not surprised, by the myriad ways in which these 130 grant winners are serving their communities, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19,” said Joel Swets, Cummings Foundation’s executive director. “Their ability to adapt and work with their constituents in new and meaningful ways has an enormous impact in the communities where our colleagues and leasing clients live and work.”

Cummings Foundation has now awarded more than $280 million to greater Boston nonprofits.

Social distancing requirements will prevent Foundation and grant winner representatives from convening for a reception at Trade Center 128 in Woburn, as planned, to celebrate the $20 million infusion into greater Boston’s nonprofit sector. Instead, Cummings Foundation expects hundreds of individuals to gather virtually for a modified celebration in mid-June.

The Cummings $20 Million Grant Program resulted from a merger of the Foundation’s two flagship grant programs, $100K for 100 and Sustaining Grants.

The Foundation and its volunteers first identified 130 organizations to receive grants of at least $100,000 each. Among the winners are first-time recipients as well as nonprofits that have previously received Cummings Foundation grants. A limited number of this latter group of repeat recipients will be invited to make in-person presentations in the fall, when public health related circumstances allow, proposing that their grants be elevated to long-term awards. Thirty such requests will be granted in the form of 10-year awards ranging from $200,000 to $500,000 each.

This year’s diverse group of grant recipients represents a wide variety of causes, including homelessness prevention, affordable housing, education, violence prevention, and food insecurity. The nonprofits are spread across 40 different cities and towns, and most will receive their grants over two to five years.

The complete list of 130 grant winners is available at www.CummingsFoundation.org.

A great deal more information about Cummings Foundation is detailed in Bill Cummings’ self-written business book, “Starting Small and Making It Big: Hands-On Lessons in Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy.” The brand-new, and significantly updated, 6th edition is available on Amazon or cummings.com/book.

About Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center

Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center partners with families experiencing homelessness. The organization endeavors to break the cycle of homelessness by providing shelter, permanent housing, training and work readiness program, and life skills development. Founded in 1988, the organization is the legacy of the social action ministry of St. Paul AME Church in Cambridge and was named to honor the regional bishop, Rev. Richard Allen Hildebrand, who authorized the rehabilitation of the former parsonage for use as a congregate shelter for homeless families. Since then, Hildebrand has been at the forefront of the movement to end family homelessness, and has grown to become one of Massachusetts’ leading family homelessness providers The organization shelters 135 families through scattered sites and congregate living programs, and operates 11 permanent affordable apartments, in the Greater Boston area. Learn more about Hildebrand at www.hild-selfhelp.org.

About Cummings Foundation

Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, Inc. was established in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings. The Foundation directly operates its own charitable subsidiaries, including New Horizons retirement communities in Marlborough and Woburn, and Veterinary School at Tufts, LLC in North Grafton. Additional information is available at www.CummingsFoundation.org.

The Free Philosophy Project: Parents in shelter gather together for philosophical discussions.

The Free Philosophy Project: Parents in shelter gather together for philosophical discussions

Every Tuesday evening of the school year at Columbia House, you will find a group of parents seated around a kitchen table, enjoying snacks and one another’s company. While the kids are busy playing with Horizons for Homeless Children’s PALs, the parents are busy having philosophical discussions posing questions such as: What defines a miracle? How does our culture influence definitions of beauty? What value does love bring to our lives? This group discussion is led by Maité Cruz Tleugabulova, a PhD candidate of philosophy from Boston University and a member of the Free Philosophy Project.

The Free Philosophy Project began as an experiment in 2015 when Clarinda Blais, then an undergraduate student at BU, began sharing her notes at the Women’s Lunch Place and St. Francis House. The Free Philosophy Project became a formal organization in 2016, spanning across 10 different shelters in the Greater Boston area, bringing weekly philosophical discussions to shelter residents. The partnership between Hildebrand and the Free Philosophy Project officially began in January 2018 and will continue to run according to the academic calendar with a fall and spring session.

The Free Philosophy Project aims to “share philosophy with those who may not otherwise have access to it.” Every week our families come together to engage in intellectual discussion, increasing their critical thinking skills and allowing them the space to share their thoughts based on their lived experiences. The effects of these conversations are clear for both Maité, as a student, and for the families participating.

Maité studies Philosophy and teaches courses at Boston University, and she brings some of the questions from her class into the weekly discussion. The Free Philosophy Project allows Maité to learn about philosophy from folks of different walks of life. She says “it’s nice to see people coming to philosophy from a different place and gets them to see the issues in a real way. It’s not abstract, it’s connecting ideas to their lives.” The participants of the project feel similarly. One resident, Victoria, has been attending the weekly discussion for the past two months and looks forward to how each weekly meeting changes her perspective. She says, “It teaches you different ways to think about things and look at things in life, which helps with everything in general. The ‘Happiness’ discussion was a good one and it’s been a positive experience.”

Some families were skeptical at first, hesitantly joining the discussion group then being pleasantly surprised by taking a lot away from the experience. One such resident, Leah recalls, “At first I wasn’t going to do it but it’s helping me see the big picture and think more in depth about happiness. We can be honest about ourselves and not be judged.”

Another resident, Illiana, who has attended the weekly discussion groups since it began, has seen a change in herself since starting the group. “They opened my mind to thoughts I had but couldn’t put into words. My way of thinking is different. I find myself thinking in depth more often.”

Hildebrand offers a variety of training and work readiness programs and life skill development programs. While housing clinics and budgeting workshops are beneficial in breaking down barriers to housing, it’s important to us that we provide opportunities for parents to reflect on topics and ideas beyond their current situation. Another such workshop series hosted annually is The Parenting Journey.

The Free Philosophy Project is now an integral part of our program offerings and is particularly unique. It’s driven by the experiences of our families and provides them an opportunity to highlight their experiences and connect them to larger concepts. We are excited to continue this partnership and look forward to the many philosophical discussions to be had at Columbia, and expanding it for our families in Dorchester this fall.

Long conference room table with chairs. In center of table are art supplies. In background on wall are a whiteboard, a flat screen and a sign with Hildebrand on it.

The Importance of Self-Care at Hildebrand

According to the Simmons School of Social Work, social services professionals are often susceptible to burnout because of the high levels of empathy required for the job. Burnout is work-related physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. In order to combat burnout in the social services field, Simmons staff suggests encouraging self-care in the human services agency.

So, what is self-care? It is a way to balance activities and sustain long-term happiness in careers and relationships by being mindful of your needs and limitations. There are various ways to promote self-care in your agency, but Simmons staff also suggest including self-care activities in job descriptions, evaluations, and agendas for supervision and meetings.

Here at Hildebrand we promote self-care in a variety of ways.

Last year the leadership staff at Hildebrand created an Employee Recognition Program. This peer-to-peer recognition program is a way for Hildebrand staff to nominate their peers for exemplary contributions. It provides the opportunity for staff to applaud the hard work and effort of their co-workers. The nominations are read aloud during a bi-monthly networking event. This networking event is led by leadership staff and allows staff members of all departments to come together to recognize one another’s achievements and spend time together. The networking events help to promote a positive, team environment and are an important moment for self-care for our staff.

In addition to recognizing our staff for the work they do, Hildebrand integrates self-care into the agency by holding a monthly self-care activity. Designed by the Employee Engagement Committee, Hildebrand “Self-Care Mondays” are a designated hour for staff to spend time together on a self-care activity. The monthly activities have included board games, creating a vision board, and a group painting activity. “Self-Care Mondays” are a way for staff to engage in non-work related activities with one another that encourage mindfulness and team building.

Here at Hildebrand we recognize that each member of our team works diligently with our families to find resources, secure housing, and encourage them to continue towards self-sufficiency. As Hildebrand reflects on the positive impact our staff has on our families, we realize the importance of also taking time to recognize the work our team does. Our networking events and “Self-Care Mondays” creates these important opportunities to appreciate our amazing team.

An African-American Man and South Asian-American man smiling for the camera with people and the Hildebrand logo visible in background.

Coming Home: A Client Success

In October, we hosted our first Open House at our administrative office here in Cambridge. We were fortunate enough to have a former client come and speak about his experience. Humbled by his experience Ibrahim had given a relatively short summary of his experience before going on to explain the long-lasting affects the circumstances that led him to Hildebrand continues to have on him and his family. In short, he escaped war-torn Sudan and seven years later is now a proud homeowner, here in Massachusetts. Read his story below:

Ibrahim and his family escaped war-torn Sudan as political refugees in 2010. They faced the reality that children were being shot in the streets or kidnapped to join the army, and knew they had to seek refuge elsewhere. Ibrahim had been sent to prison after refusing to join the army and participate in the mass genocide that was taking place.

His family realized that they had to leave Sudan in order to survive. Ibrahim shared with us that the decision to leave was not easy, but he realized “this is war and you must leave everything to survive war – even your clothes.”

Forced to flee the country where he worked as an architect the family walked through the night in order to cross the border into Egypt undetected. They spent time in refugee camps in there, before coming to Boston, where they didn’t know anyone. His wife gave birth to their third child in one of those refugee camps, it’s a miracle they both survived with little access to medical supplies. His family lived in a hotel for seven months before coming to Hildebrand in 2011.

The unit they had lived in before coming to us was unhealthy for his three children, exacerbating their asthma and requiring multiple visits to the doctors and emergency rooms. They came to Hildebrand to preserve their lives. Ibrahim found a job at Logan Airport, and he and his wife attended college while living here.

While at Hildebrand his family received their green cards, and he was excited to apply for citizenship because he came to the United States for the opportunities the country provided, to build a better life, and a better future. Ibrahim and his family moved out of shelter in 2012. For many years, Ibrahim worked three jobs to save money and support their growing family while his wife endured heart surgery while attending school to become a teacher.

Despite all they had faced, this family has continued to strive and persevere and in the summer of 2017, Ibrahim and his wife purchased their own home in Sharon, MA! During our discussion about their struggles Ibrahim shared with us his love for his country and the people that helped to support them. “We are so happy to be here. We love America and we are American now. As a family we accept everyone and love all traditions. We live and die for America.”

The trauma of their experiences still affects them, but Ibrahim and his family continue to thrive in their life here in America.

Ibrahim is pictured right above with his former case manager, Marc Jean-Jacques.

The Hildebrand staff.

An increased focus on stabilization

Since Shiela Y. Moore took the reigns as CEO of Hildebrand in 2013, we have continued to grow and evolve in order to better support the families we serve. Under Shiela’s leadership our shelter capacity has increased from 99 families to 126; expanding the congregate living model from 23 units to 53 within two years after witnessing its increased success. She has increased our permanent housing from 5 units to 11, and finance and property management are now all conducted in house thanks to her efforts. While we continue to make great strides, family homelessness is not going away. Last year, 226 families came through our shelter doors.

Our vision is that Every family has a home, but the shrinking number of vouchers and affordable housing in the Greater Boston area has made it increasingly more difficult for families to move beyond shelter.

Families often spend a year or more on the wait list before coming up for apartments at area housing authorities. Unfortunately, lack of vouchers and housing options are not the only barriers to self-sufficiency. Medical conditions, mental health, credit or CORI issues, ESOL, past-evictions, low wages, and immigration status are only a few among the litany of barriers Hildebrand families face. In turn, case managers struggle to meet each family’s needs when it involves something we aren’t equipped to address.

Over the course of FY’17, the senior leadership team took measures to evaluate our current programming and identify gaps drawing upon feedback from Programs team members and a human resource assessment conducted by Insource, a management consulting firm. The goals were to provide consistency across programs, strengthen stabilization support, build stronger connections between Hildebrand and our permanent housing tenants, and strengthen housing search support, targeted barrier reduction, and increase client education. Additionally, Hildebrand will improve data collection and evaluation. In order to accomplish these goals, two new positions were developed and three existing positions have been refocused.

The Housing Search and Tenant Support Specialist (HSTSS) is a new position that developed out of a need to assist families with their housing search and provide stabilization case management to families that have moved into permanent housing with HomeBase, who are often less stably-housed than those with vouchers. The HSTSS will assist case management with targeted housing search while cultivating relationships with new landlords.

In June, Marc Jean-Jacques, the Residential Manager of our Cambridge congregate shelters, was promoted to HSTSS. During FY’17, Marc helped 13 families, about 93% of his caseload, successfully transition out of shelter and move into permanent, affordable housing. With a proven track record for high move outs, Marc was ideally suited for this role. “I think my housing speciality and my advocacy skills will serve me in this new position,” he mused. “I hope to create a landlord and housing authorities database for the whole organization, and create a relationship between landlords and Hildebrand so that we can be the first place a landlord calls when they have an apartment for rent.”

He continued, “The challenge will be to gain landlord trust and spreading Hildebrand’s name across all the housing authorities. It will be a lot of networking.”

The second newly developed position, Client Services Coordinator, will research, develop, and implement tools and resources that reduce barriers for Hildebrand families. “Hildebrand has a lot of potential to be a really innovative organization and provide support needed to end the cycle of homelessness,” said Brianna Gaddy, who was promoted from Case Manager at Strathcona House to the Client Services Coordinator position in July. “As a case manager, I saw the support that’s needed to fully address the barriers our clients face and how difficult it can be to find those resources while maintaining the day-to-day functions of the role. This new position is a way to provide more support to our staff and our clients. I think it’s an exciting opportunity to be a part of that.”

In addition to these newly created roles, Shiela Y. Moore and her leadership team redefined a few existing positions. Deborah Lovell, whose previous role as Property and Housing Placement Manager (PHPM) functioned under the Operations department. As the PHPM, Deborah was the liaison between Hildebrand and our scattered site and congregate landlords, and she also managed Hildebrand’s permanent housing properties. In her redefined role as Property Manager and Tenant Support Specialist, which has been enveloped into Programs, Deborah will continue to manage Hildebrand permanent housing portfolio, currently at 11 units (but expected to grow), and, like the HSTSS, will support a caseload of 15 families in stabilization.

“In this newly defined role, I am hoping to integrate as much support in areas of self-advocacy, having tenants be empowered to stand up for themselves and support themselves in as many aspects as possible by teaching them to take the lead towards their own independence,” Deb explained.

Cory Mills-Dick was promoted to Deputy Director of Programs in May. In his previous role as Assistant Director of Programs, Cory was responsible for the oversight of all aspects of our congregate living programs, which encompass 53 homeless families, 5 direct reports, and over 40 secondary reports. In his redefined role, Cory oversees all aspects of Hildebrand’s Emergency Shelter programming, supporting all 126 families. Additionally, Cory is responsible for the implementation of consistent, effective, and intensive interventions to support families in obtaining permanent housing and achieving self-sufficiency.

“Consolidating the oversight of the congregate and scattered site programs allows us to have more consistency in our service delivery and the addition of Marc and Brianna gives case managers much needed support addressing housing and barrier specific issues,” Cory explained. “Overall, I think the impact on the services we provide to clients will be significant and we will see a more comprehensive vision for the direction of our Emergency Shelter program.”

As the Deputy Director of Programs, Cory’s direct reports have increased from five to eleven, with the addition of six scattered site case managers. “We have such a committed and hardworking staff, it will be exciting to see what they will be able to accomplish with the additional support that our restructure provides,” Cory exclaimed.

Leading this renewed department, Michelle Novelle, LICSW, PhD, joined the team in August as the new Director of Programs. Michelle’s focus will be the further development of prevention and intervention programs and activities, expansion of stabilization services, and create partnerships that address income, language, education, employment, housing search, health and wellness, and program evaluation. Michelle brings nearly 30 years of experience to Hildebrand, most recently as the VP of Programs and Operations at St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children, where she provided day to day oversight of 8 programs, including the DHCD funded family shelter. Michelle’s background as a senior manager, counselor, adjunct professor at Boston University School of Social Work, and researcher makes her uniquely qualified for this role because she brings a strong combination of management, academic, and direct service experience in family homelessness and the challenges of providers.

“I was drawn to Hildebrand for a number of reasons. In part, the sheer number of families served by the organization appealed to my love of systems in that Hildebrand plays an important role in the quest to safely house families and ultimately facilitate the possibility of long term stability and positive social outcomes for the children,” Michelle said. “My hope is that the experience I have in both academia and practice will allow for evidence based programmatic development that is able to be implemented, integrated and ultimately sustained in a manner that best serves our families.”

It really is an exciting time to work at Hildebrand and see how these changes impact our families positively and help to become more stable and move beyond shelter.

Group of adults and children.

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week 2016

Yesterday marked the start of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week; I could not think of a better way to enter the holiday season. While many of us gather together to celebrate with family, it can be easy to forget about those people who are not as fortunate. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 46.7 million people in the United States are living below the poverty line and 49 million are at risk of suffering from hunger. Your neighbor, coworker, your child’s best friend at school, or even their teacher could be suffering from hunger. Homelessness and hunger do not discriminate.

Since homelessness and hunger often come hand-in-hand, we recently entered into a partnership with Food for Free, whose mission is to bridge the gap between waste and want by rescuing fresh food and distributing it to emergency food programs and individuals in need. Thanks to this new partnership, Food for Free will be donating frozen meals, which will be given to every new family entering into Hildebrand. While we boast about the number of families who’ve successfully moved out of Shelter, twenty-seven (27) since the start of the fiscal year, a new family enters into shelter for every family that moves out. Last fiscal year, 219 unique families were living in shelter at Hildebrand, these families were comprised of 265 adults and 388 children. Even the families who live in shelter can forget that after they move on, another family replaces them.

In June, Nilaya Montalvo from Homes for Families came to Hildebrand to facilitate a workshop on Advocacy. Sixteen (16) parents attended the workshop, discussed the stigma of homelessness, and discovered the different avenues to advocacy. One of the biggest takeaways from that workshop was to be a voice, an advocate, for other people experiencing homelessness – what better way to incite change.

Homelessness is not a choice; it can be a traumatizing and polarizing experience. However, as we enter the holiday season, we try to bring a level of normalcy and stability into the lives of the families we serve. And we could not do it without the graciousness and support of our charitable donors. Next week, members from the Board of Directors and staff will be out delivering turkeys and the fixings, generously donated by the East End House and a private donor, to 85 families for Thanksgiving. That is over a 280% increase from last year.

In December, volunteers from Harpoon Brewery will be returning to decorate the 5 congregate living programs in Cambridge and Dorchester with Christmas cheer! The holidays can be especially difficult for families experiencing homelessness. Unfortunately, many children miss out on the magic of the holiday season because their parents must prioritize their spending on essentials like food, transportation, and clothing. But fortunately, over 300 children, who have all been matched with donors, will receive presents wrapped by their parents on Christmas this year. We are so fortunate for the continued support of our holiday donors who make it possible to continue providing holiday cheer to our families, even as our numbers grow.

Want to make a difference in the lives of people experiencing homelessness? Here are some ways you can help:

  • Donate: You can help support Hildebrand families by making a tax-deductible donation online. Your donation can go towards supplemental supports like gift cards to Stop & Shop, Charlie Cards for transportation, and more.
  • Shop AmazonSmile: When you shop AmazonSmile, Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price to Hildebrand. You can help support Hildebrand and do your holiday shopping in one fell-swoop!
  • Partner with Hildebrand families: If you have a rental property and want to make a difference in your community, contact Deborah Lovell, Property and Housing Placement Manager, to learn about some of the ways you can help. Her direct email is dlovell@hild-selfhelp.org.
  • Spread the word!: You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about family homelessness on a local and national level. Share our Facebook posts or retweet us to spread more awareness in your community.
African-American profession woman conducting a workshop with powerpoints in a full classroom of adults.

Organizational Values

Since Shiela Y. Moore has taken over as CEO of Hildebrand, she’s worked diligently to improve our infrastructure. Hildebrand has grown exponentially under her leadership, from a 40 person team to 70 employees, 99 units of shelter to 126 units, and increased the permanent housing capacity to 11 units. Last year, Shiela, the Board of Directors, and Senior Management shifted Hildebrand’s focus and went through a rebranding process to ensure the organization has a more accurate and adequate representation. Along with rebranding, the Board of Directors (BOD) and Senior Management (SM) collaborated to refine the organization’s vision, mission, and values.

Our Mission:

Hildebrand partners with families experiencing homeless¬ness. We endeavor to break the cycle of homelessness by providing shelter, permanent housing, training and work readiness programs, and life skill development. We restore hope and build brighter futures.

Our Vision:

Every family has a home.

Pre-Established Values:

  1. Shared Vision & Mission – Ensuring that everyone is an empowered stakeholder.
  2. Organizational Sustainability – Maintaining a financially stable organization that provides opportunities for future growth and development.
  3. Family Centered Approach – Partnering with families to engage in a relationship with clear expectations, mutual respect, accountability, and compassion.
  4. Creativity & Initiative – Promoting an environment where new ideas thrive, innovative solutions can emerge, and compelling results are recognized.
  5. Appreciation & Respect – Validating staff efforts and situation.
  6. Positive, Professional, Team Environment – Managing practices which promote a thriving workplace through a leadership team that advocates for and engages with all levels.

In February, the entire staff participated in a meeting facilitated by consultant Roosevelt Smith, in which we broke out into seven groups and developed 3-5 values each that followed the phrase “Hildebrand is at its best when.” In addition, we had fun with roleplay and a little friendly competition between the small teams, and discussed how the new vision and mission statements will impact organization goals, culture, roles and our approach to working with families. The goal of the meeting was to then review the values each group developed and discover the degree to which they aligned with those as drafted by the BOD and SM. Unfortunately, we ran out of time, so Shiela created a committee of volunteers, headed by me (Ashley Ganem), to complete this task.

Twelve (12) staff members from various departments and two clients volunteered to sit on this Values Committee (VC) to complete the great work we began in February. Over a three month period, the committee reviewed the values each breakout group developed to analyze which ones matched up with the Board and Senior Management pre-established values and discover any outliers.

While the BOD and SM created a great foundation, after carefully reviewing the values from the All Staff Meeting, the VC found some improvements could be made. Kate Healey, the Residential Manager of Morse House (at the time), wanted to incorporate the Family-Centered Approach throughout the values. She suggested that if we truly believe everyone is an empowered stakeholder then we should remove the “us” (staff) and “them” (clients) dynamic present within the pre-established values. Thus, the VC made it a point to use more inclusive language. “We wanted to be clear that our family-centered approach encompassed the working relationship between staff and clients, as well as between coworkers. For a family structure to work functionally, members must trust one another to fulfill their responsibilities, respect the work, and appreciate the effort” said values committee member and case manager, Brooke Murphy.

Organizational Values

Hildebrand’s culture is one in which staff, clients, collaborators, and supporters embrace its mission and vision. Together, we hold a set of values that enable the empowerment of its stakeholders and ensure the success of the organization. We value:

  1. Organization Sustainability – Maintaining a financially stable organization that provides opportunities for future growth and development.
  2. Family Centered Approach – Partnering with families and staff to engage in a relationship with clear expectations, mutual respect, accountability, and compassion.
  3. Creativity & Initiative – Promoting an environment where new ideas thrive, innovative solutions can emerge, and compelling results are recognized.
  4. Appreciation & Respect – Validating client and staff efforts and situations
  5. Positive, Professional, Team Environment – Maintaining practices that promote both a thriving workplace and a supportive environment for families.
  6. Communication – Promoting active and effective communication between all levels of the organization.
  7. Advocacy – Working towards solutions that address poverty and homelessness by developing the advocacy skills of clients and staff.

When the VC reviewed the pre-established values, it became clear that having a Shared Mission & Vision was an organizational goal, one we can achieve through our values. Thus, Shared Mission & Vision became an introduction to our goals, which, in turn, moved Organizational Sustainability to the forefront. We then made sure that Family Centered Approach, Appreciation & Respect, and Positive, Professional Team Environment included both staff and clients. It was important to use this inclusive language because the majority of our staff (more than 60%) work within a living space.

Communication was the first addition to the values, which came about as a result of two things. First, during the breakout groups from the February All Staff Meeting, one group, team name “Dream Makers” lead by Kelly Duda, Director of Programs, wrote, “Hildebrand is at its best when communication happens.” As the sole communications staff member, I was obviously drawn to this observation. However, it was when I met with Tara*, one of the clients on the VC, who echoed that statement. She suggested that having open lines of communication with both staff and other families was essential to a family’s success within the congregate living programs.

The families living in shelter are human and oftentimes things occur that are beyond their control. By keeping staff informed whether they got out of work late and missed or a child is sick in the hospital and they need to stay there overnight, they won’t receive a house violation. Tara works as a nurse and often leaves the house before 6:00 AM, if she needs help with her children, she can ask one of the other mothers. The same applies to our staff. If someone knows that a client is going to be late or going through a difficult time, informing their relief or the residential manager ensures consistency.

The VC was most passionate about our final addition, Advocacy. First and foremost, advocacy is something we already do; adding it to the organizational values brings to it light and structure. As an organization, clients advocate for themselves within state agencies, and with their case managers and the Assistant Directors of Programs. In June, Homes for Families held an advocacy workshop wherein MassVote held voter registration. Morse House also held voter registration. Advocacy doesn’t end with clients. Staff advocate for clients with landlords, other Hildebrand staff, housing authorities, educational institutions, medical professionals, childcare, and more. Staff also advocate for better benefits through annual reviews, supervision, and department meetings.

The VC brought together a passionate group of people dedicated to the great work we do at Hildebrand. Out of this passion came the creation of an employee engagement committee, HAC (Hildebrand Ambassador Committee). HAC is an interdepartmental committee whose purpose is to uphold the organizational values through employee engagement. The committee has been opened up to those beyond the VC who’re just as passionate.

Special thanks to Values Committee members Doris Beechman, Raychelle Burwell, Tunji Clary, Ashley Ganem, Kate Healey, Marc Jean-Jacques, Linda Jeong, Deborah Lovell, Lyndsey McMahan, Brooke Murphy, Meaghan O’Donnell, Mike Short, and our two clients.

*Name changed for confidentiality

Bulletin board with "Inspiration Wall" and images and writings with paper flowers surrounding the items.

Strathcona at a Glance

This past April, we opened Strathcona House, the fifth congregate living program in our portfolio, which was created out of the need to accommodate larger families while providing them with consistent structure and ongoing support in hopes that it will decrease their lengths of stay in shelter. The average length of stay for families living in scattered sites is a little over 15 months, while those living in the congregate setting move out in about half that time. Families living in congregate living programs have the added benefit of residential assistants, who help with job and housing searches, life skills classes, and emotional support, in addition to their residential manager; not to mention living in close proximity to other families provides added motivation to move out of shelter and acquire their own space, their own home.

Strathcona House, which had previously been the location of 12 scattered site apartments, now shelters 20 families, increasing the number of families we are able to accommodate to 126, at any given time. This new building has a unique model in that there are both single family (6) and co-shelter (7) units. A co-shelter unit is an apartment in which two (2) families share a kitchen, living room, and bathroom, but each have their own bedrooms. Strathcona House, similar to our other four congregate living programs, is staffed 24/7; however, because it is the largest congregate a case manager is located on-site in addition to a residential manager (RM) to help shoulder the caseload.

Gamuchirai “Gamu” Bere was promoted from a scattered site case manager to residential manager where, in addition to the families in shelter and stabilization she manages, she’s also in charge of 11 residential assistants, all newly hired in February and March. Gamu explained why she decided to apply for the RM position, saying, “My previous experience in residential programs and, most importantly, my previous role as a case manager within Hildebrand motivated me to apply for the residential manager position as I was already familiar with the organization’s structure, programs, and operations, which allowed me to smoothly transition into that role. My role as case manager in the scattered site program has equipped me with the fundamental skills in case management, applying the organizations policies and procedures to ensure clients’ overall well-being whilst in the shelter program and help them reach their expected outcomes, which is moving into permanent housing with increased self-reliance skills. I also believe being a residential manager is a right step towards my long-term career development and I am grateful for this opportunity and the support I have from all my superiors and the wonderful team of residential assistants at Strathcona House.”

Meaghan O’Donnell, who was hired as a scattered site case manager in December, chose to transition to Strathcona House because of her previous experience working in a residential setting. “When the opportunity arose, I decided to move into the case manager position at Strathcona because I had been working in a residential setting for five and a half years prior to joining Hildebrand, and felt that my knowledge of how it works would be a benefit to that position because I am able to empathize with my clients as well as hold them accountable,” Meaghan explains. She joined Hildebrand in December because of her desire to work with families experiencing homelessness. “I have experience working with individuals experiencing homelessness,” she says, “as well as working with families. I had a desire to work with families who were experiencing homelessness and was glad to find Hildebrand because the people who work here do an amazing job partnering with families during their time of need.”

In July, Meaghan was promoted from case manager at Strathcona House to the residential manager at Morse House. Brianna Gaddy, the new case manager at Strathcona, comes to us with a unique background, earning a Bachelor’s in English from Ursinus College. Before Hildebrand, Brianna worked as a Resident Service Coordinator at a public housing development in Connecticut, where she provided supportive service counseling to residents helping them achieve short and long term goals to self-sufficiency. Her goal for her first year at Hildebrand is to establish meaningful relationships with clients and assist them with their housing search. “I hope to utilize my previous experience to help my clients address the barriers they face in obtaining sustainable permanent housing… [and look] forward to maintaining and creating community partnerships as resources for clients.” This fall, Brianna will be attending Boston College School of Social Work to earn her Masters.

Of the 11 new residential assistants who’ve joined the Strathcona team, I spoke with Brooke Murphy and LaToya “Toya” Doman about what initially drew them to join Hildebrand. Brooke explains, “I was immediately drawn to Hildebrand by our shared beliefs in the immeasurable value of community engagement, the need for social justice, and the power of applied compassion. When I learned Hildebrand’s mission pushes beyond providing shelter for families experiencing homelessness and aims to work with each member of every family, I wanted to be a part of that mission.” Toya’s desire to join Hildebrand echoes Brooke’s, saying, “What drew me to Hildebrand was how passionate the company is about helping families in need.” She adds, “The help is very unisex, it’s not just for mothers with children but for single dads as well which I find cool. Growing up, I always wanted to be a part of something that makes me leave work despite its difficulties saying, ‘Yeah, I made a difference.’”

While converting a building from 12 scattered sites to a congregate of 20 families certainly had its struggles, we know that the passion of the staff and the motivation of the families living there are a combination for success. Homelessness in and of itself is a traumatic experience that can leave a family feeling disaffected. “I would live to create a sense of community,” Meaghan says of her hope for the future, “the congregate living model can be so much more than just a place for clients to sleep; families can find a sense of pride in working with their case manager or residential manager in order to move towards self-sufficiency and onto permanent housing.” Gamu reiterates Meaghan, saying “I expect to develop a sense of community among the Strathcona residents, and have a nurturing, productive environment for families, supported by excellent staff members.”

Although they’ve only been working at Strathcona for a short period of time, it is evident that the staff have adopted Gamu’s and Meaghan’s vision for the future. “Every day I walk through the doors of Strathcona, my main goal is to maintain a safe, nurturing, and stable environment by being available to provide genuine support and personalized assistance to every family and each family member,” Brooke explains. In the same vein, Toya continues, “I look forward to being part of a team that helps make families see that not only is this a shelter but it is a place where they can feel safe. I want to start coming up with activities for families so they can bond – like cook-outs and themed holidays for the families to be involved.

“I am also looking forward to seeing these families, who come in here needing assistance, leaving with a package full of hope for the future of their families and not looking back.”

We hosted an open house at Strathcona on Wednesday, August 3rd to celebrate its opening.

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Ph: 617-491-5752
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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.