Author: Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center

African-American mother and father with their two children ages approximately 8 and 10.

A Journey Home: One Family’s Success

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

Two women smiling for camera in front of the Hildebrand sign.

The Parenting Journey

We’re excited to host The Parenting Journey workshop series, which helps parents to become more confident by building on their strengths, resulting in a more nurturing family relationship. Many parents are often best served by first stepping back and reflecting on their own childhood experiences, before they begin to develop concrete goals for improving their relationship with their own children. Facilitated by our own case managers, Marisol and Meaghan, this 12-week workshop series focuses on promoting attitudes that enhance good parenting behaviors as well as providing the tools for parents to effectively model these behaviors at home. Marisol and Meaghan are in a unique position because they participated in a 5-day experience of The Parenting Journey training.

During the first three days of the facilitator training, Marisol, Meaghan, and the other participants went through the actual experience of being in a Parenting Journey group. Meaghan recalls, “During the group, I was able to really take a look at my childhood and relate it to my relationships with others. The Parenting Journey is a challenging experience where you develop bonds with others also participating in this group.” Marisol reiterates Meaghan’s sentiment, stating, “The parenting journey was the most excellent training I have ever attended. It made me realize how I was parented and now how I parent my own child and have relationships with others.”

Meaghan notes that the Parenting Journey is different from most parenting groups because it does teach a “right” or “wrong” way to parent, rather it provides a deeper understanding of oneself, finding ways to do “self-care” in order to become a more effective parent. According to the Parenting Journey website, “The program model focuses on adult development and the emotional understanding of what it means to be a parent thus filling a void created by traditional parenting classes that often focus solely on child development and disciplinary techniques.”

This program’s mission aligns with our own approach to case management; three terms frequently heard around either the office or congregates are “unconditional positive regard,” “trauma informed care,” and “strengths-based communication.” In essence, the ability to offer respect, acknowledgement, dignity, and warmth to a person no matter what emotions or behaviors he/she offers in return, which involves a feeling of acceptance for a person’s negative, fearful, painful, defensive and abnormal feelings as much as it does a person’s positive, mature and socially normal feelings. As the service provider, we deeply value the humanity of our client, which is not merely the head of household, but each member of the family. The Parenting Journey series will not only serve those attending the program and their families but will ripple into other areas of their lives.

The first Parenting Journey series is being held at Devon House, one of our congregate living programs in Dorchester, beginning on Thursday, April 7th at 5:00 PM. When asked what they hope to bring to the parents who attend, Marisol says, “to show the parents that they are not alone when it comes to parenting or being parented – [it’s a] great way to show clients that you do not need to have children to understand this training.” Meaghan echoes, “helping [the families] realize that they are not alone in this journey as a parent. I also hope to help them realize their self-worth.”

The workshop will be held at Devon House from 5:00 to 7:00 PM on Thursdays, April 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th, May 5th, 12th, 19th, and 26th, and June 2nd, 9th, 16th, and 23rd. Dinner and child care will be provided each week. *Workshop is limited to Devon families.

Young Asian woman in an office smiling for camera.

The Benefits of Internships

An Internship works twofold – (1) it is an opportunity for someone to gain experience working in their desired field and (2) the organization benefits from an additional teammate who’s passionate and willing to learn and contribute new ideas. Since September, Linda Jeong, a graduate student at Boston College, has been interning in our programs department under the supervision of Lyndsey McMahan, Assistant Director of Programs. A little over halfway through her internship, Linda has become an invaluable member of our team.

As part of her Masters of Social Work program at BC, Linda is required to do a field practicum. “MSW students are able to get placed at any agency of their choice based on their experience and goals. Each student within the program learn[s] basic knowledge, skills, and values during their classes and appl[ies] it to the field,” Linda writes. For Linda, like many others in the field of Social Work, there is no such thing as a typical day at work; “Since October, I have been working with two different families who have different needs.” One of those families was recently placed in affordable housing in San Antonio, TX.

She continues, “Each day required different tasks, such as looking for apartments who accepted Section 8, contacting San Antonio Housing Authority for a voucher extension, and finding a way to actually get her there. Once we got a unit, we had to apply for HomeBASE, which is a household assistance programs that assists with moving…start-up costs, and household items. From there, I contacted many different vendors to ensure that my client was going to have everything she needed to move securely into permanent housing.” An internship with Hildebrand is very hands-on, working directly with clients, other case managers and members of various sectors of the organization, vendors, government agencies, and more; it’s never a dull moment here.

When asked about her favorite part of her internship, she writes, “After being at Hildebrand for about half a year, I think my favorite part … has been the opportunity to go out in the field to do intakes to meet families for the first time, who have either been transferred into our program or have entered shelter for the first time. So far, I’ve been on about 5 intakes and each time has been an amazing learning experience. I’ve been able to hear their stories, assess their needs and strengths, and introduce them to our services. I think that first impressions are very significant to the start of a wonderful client-program relationship. I hope that clients not only feel welcomed and valuable but also empowered to make a difference in their lives with the help and support from Hildebrand.”

Gamu Bere, currently a case manager and soon to be residential manager at a new congregate living program in Dorchester after its completion, said of Linda, “[she’s] been helpful with assisting case managers by with carrying some of our caseloads.” Gamu commends Linda for her work in successfully moving her client to Texas, saying “To be able to successfully accomplish this, I believe Linda was able to utilize excellent organizational skills which include networking, communication and team work.” Mike Short, Program Coordinator, adds, “Linda has been a huge asset to Hildebrand over the past months. She is the first one to volunteer to help out with our donation room, birthday wishes and intakes. Linda’s strong background in Social Work has helped her move on a long stayer client who had been with us since 2014.”

Additionally, Raychelle Burwell, one of our case managers who is studying for her Master’s in Psychology at Cambridge College, is interning under Joy Gallon, LICSW. As part of her internship she is becoming a facilitator for the Nurturing Fathers program and will co-facilitate a group for fathers beginning in April. A new intern, Patille Bingham, starts tomorrow (2/26/2016). She is studying for her Master’s degree in Social Work at Boston University. She’ll be working with a Case Manager with one of the families they provide services to, and will have her work with several Stabilization families. Both Patille and Raychelle will be assisting with the creation and facilitation of therapeutic play workshops for the children. It’s great to see our programs expand through these internship opportunities!

On her advice to incoming interns, Linda says, “Don’t feel nervous, afraid, or embarrassed to ask for help. You are surrounded by very experienced and knowledgeable co-workers who are more than happy to assist you with any questions you may have about your cases, housing or life in general!”

Woman in a suit in a discussion on stage.

The American Justice Summit

On January 29th, one of our clients, Ada, spoke at the second annual American Justice Summit at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, NY. She describes her experience with guns and a wrongful conviction that separated her from her children and forced her to restart her life. Despite all that, and with a little help from her daughter, she’s advocates against gun use to young girls as the Latino Field Organizer for Operation L.I.P.S.T.I.C.K (Ladies Involved in Putting a Stop to Inner-City Killing).

Watch her speak about her experience at 2:06:26 to 2:15:51.

Woman with curly hair and glasses in

Welcoming our New Assistant Director of Programs, Joy Gallon

Please join us in welcoming our new Assistant Director of Programs, Family Advocacy & Support Team, Joy Gallon! Prior to joining us at Hildebrand, Joy worked at The Edinburg Center in Lexington, MA for over a decade. While there, she worked in various capacities, but most recently she was the Director of Community Intervention Services, responsible for overseeing short-term programs providing services to people with serious mental illnesses. “The programs that I was responsible for included a short-term respite and outreach program that provided intensive mental health services to a small number of clients (up to 5 on-site clients and up to 11 outreach clients) in our service area (18 towns and cities). We met with and provided services to these clients a minimum of twice per week and up to twice per day,” she says of her time there.

In addition, she also supervised jail diversion programs in Arlington and Waltham, which provided supervision to clinicians based at the police departments in each town, and did weekly ride-alongs with the Senior Affairs Officer in Waltham. “The clinicians would assess people in the community with an officer when someone in those communities came to the attention of police due to a mental health or substance abuse concern,” Joy writes. They would then assess the person determining whether or not services needed to be provided or whether he or she needed to go to the hospital. She continues, “I also provided hoarding assessments and services to people in Waltham brought to my attention by the police or fire departments.”

When asked what experience she hopes to bring from The Edinburg Center, Joy responds, “I hope to bring a knowledge of how to provide excellent outreach services to the people we serve in the scattered sites, and […] bring my experience serving persons with mental health concerns to the team, in order to better serve our clients who are impacted by trauma, mental illness, and substance abuse concerns.” Additionally, her two main goals are to reduce the time our clients spend in shelter and move them more quickly into permanent, sustainable housing as well as bring more workshops & trainings to our clients “in order to help equip them with the tools they need to reduce the barriers to sustainable housing.”

Prior to working in social services, Joy worked in Human Resources. She was the Director of Human Resources at a small mental health provider. While there she was drawn to work with the clients that the organization provided with services. After she left that position, she began working at The Edinburg Center and went to back to school to earn a degree in Social Work; “I love working with people, and really enjoy helping to creatively resolve the complex and challenging situations that people encounter.”

Joy received her MSW from Boston University, Masters of Communications from Emerson College, and her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Mosaic that spells "Home" and is shaped like a doormat.

Waking from the Nightmare to a Dream Come True

Lana* was laid off in March of 2015 and became homeless in May. Before coming to Hildebrand, Lana, her husband, and their daughter were placed in Emergency Assistance shelter in Central Massachusetts. “I tried to be optimistic, I wanted to follow the rules, and to go in prepared,” she said, having meticulously read rules in order to comply with the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Unfortunately, however, her experience at her first shelter was extremely difficult and morally degrading.

She was placed into a scattered site apartment in a complex with other families in either scattered site or subsidized housing. “To be in a scattered site, you have to be motivated and disciplined,” Lana confessed. And she is extremely disciplined. Before entering shelter, she was always the provider of her family. She worked hard, so that her family could receive health care benefits and the like. This mindset had not changed for her. She would go out to workshops or trainings or in search of employment, to be sure she was in compliance as well as give her family the best chance to get out of shelter and into permanent housing.

Unfortunately, because of a lack of disciplined staff, she was targeted for a bad mother. They had no sign-in sheets and neglected to perform checks on the apartments regularly, which are both required by DHCD. While she was out trying to find ways to care for her family, her husband and others in her complex became complacent. She was reported on by the staff because at times they could not find her or claimed she was not following the rules. Had they kept a sign-in sheet they would have been aware of her comings and goings. “Once they came to check on me and asked me where I had been, and I told them ‘I’ve been here for two days to taking care of my sick daughter,’” she recalled, “nothing was in the system, it was a nightmare and I am really happy to be here [at Hildebrand].” The staff would threaten her and even got her daughter taken away from her, terminated her from the shelter, and got her food stamps taken away from her.

All the while, Lana discovered that she was pregnant. She was living out of her car, starving, estranged from her husband, and missing her daughter. But Lana is a fighter, and she appealed her termination, which led her to Hildebrand. She come to us on September 18th.

“I can’t pinpoint what it is…if it wasn’t for Hildebrand it could have gone the wrong way.”

She had 5 different case managers at the shelter in Central Mass, but here she was placed in congregate with Marc and a house full of residential assistants who are always willing to sit down and help. “If you could see my rehousing plan now compared to the one I had before, it does not even compare,” she noted. “I think it was my second day here, I was so happy, I was having eggs and it had been like 3.5 months since I’d had any.” People take for granted having the ability to prepare and eat food.

“It was a miracle he survived,” Lana said of her unborn son.

Every day at Hildebrand she continued to do everything she could to get permanent housing and a job. She hasn’t had a moment to sit back and watch a movie because she is out there doing workshops and trainings, going on job interviewing, and apartment hunting. Fortunately, she found permanent housing and moved into her apartment in Maynard on December 1st. She chose Maynard so she could be closer to her mother. “My mom said she’d help when the baby comes in February, so that I can I work,” she said, she has a difficult time being idle.

Advice for a family moving into shelter: “Take it all in, absorb it – one day at a time. And if you do all the right things, follow the rules, the right things will come.”

*name has been changed for confidentiality

A woman with her three small children.

A Guide for the Journey Home

Before coming to Hildebrand, Arianne* was living in the Days Inn Hotel in Methuen with four of her children. She made the choice to transfer to Hildebrand because she knew the environment was not good for her children. Five people living in the same room makes for a stressful living situation.

“At first, [my children] had a lot of questions, ‘why weren’t we living in a house?’ – they started acting up,” Arianne said of her time in Methuen. When she first came to Hildebrand she was “excited because my kids felt like they were in a home.” At the Days Inn, Arianne and her children lived in one space, without privacy. At Hildebrand, they moved into scattered site shelter, which is an apartment with a fully equipped kitchen and separate bedrooms for mother and children. “Even though we were in shelter,” she said, “to my kids, it was a home.”

When she came to Hildebrand in January of 2014, she said, “I was completely lost, lost apartment, lost job, lost car – I thought everything was lost. Deborah helped provide motivation, more organization. In Methuen, I was just there – I had no guide. When you become homeless, you don’t know what to expect.” In the 20 months Arianne and her family spent with us, she gave birth to her fifth child, went back to school for cosmetology (and finished!), and received section 8 housing.

On her advice to new families entering Hildebrand, she said, “Appreciate it, follow the rules, let the social workers guide you, follow directions to get where you want to. It’s easy – at first I was lost – Hildebrand made such a huge impact.”

Arianne moved into her new apartment in Roslindale on October 1st of this year.

Woman in casual clothes busy at her desk at work.

Staff Spotlight: Barbara Gaul, Residential Assistant

Barbara Gaul has been with Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center, Inc. since July of 2012, but that wasn’t her first experience in the realm of homelessness. “I always worked in a school, but always had a second job,” she said, working at Caspar, Inc., a homeless shelter for individuals with drug and alcohol addictions, for 5 years before working at Heading Home, Inc. née Shelter, Inc. and eventually joining Hildebrand. As her reasons for making the leap from the Boston Public School system to the homeless sector, “I wanted to make a difference.”

Caspar, Inc. was a great fit for Barbara at first, because like the individuals there, she had experienced addiction and wanted to help others, to give them the second chance she was given. But the real reason she moved on to Heading Home and eventually Hildebrand was because of her roots, working in Boston Public schools. “I’m here to help the mothers and fathers,” said Barbara, “because I want to help the kids and it starts with them [the parents].”

It all started when she went to Christmas in the City, “I teared up seeing how many families there are who need help.” So three days a week, Barbara gives back at Hildebrand, helping her clients do research for daycare, housing, school (higher-ed, HI-SET, ESL, vocational training, etc.), transportation, and employment, although she said most of the women living at Bishop Allen are employed at the moment, as well as provide emotional support. “We blame the economy,” she said, “but these young families don’t know how to raise a family because they didn’t have parents who taught them how.”

Working in a congregate living program is a much different experience than being a case manager because for 8 or more hours a day, the staff is an active part of the lives of those who live there; staff and clients get to know each other on a much more intimate level. If someone is having a bad day, they go to “Ms. Barbara” and the other residential staff to help them get through it.

Two clients, in particular, stand out to Barbara as people she’d deem a success. Royce* came to Hildebrand with his girlfriend and their infant son, lovingly deemed little Royce*. Unfortunately, his girlfriend left Royce at Hildebrand, alone with their child. Royce himself was nearly a child at 19 years old, raising his son on his own. Shelter was not easy for Royce at first; he had never learned to properly take care of himself because his mother was a drug addict. In shelter, Royce was reprimanded for not properly cleaning, missing the baseboards and behind the toilet. Furthermore, he did not know how to cook or even shop for groceries. He had been all but abandoned by his mother and then by his child’s mother.

Fortunately, Royce had help from Barbara and the other residential assistants at Bishop Allen, who took the time to teach him how to cook and clean, and one even took him though Market Basket and showed him how to grocery shop. While he had trouble with household tasks, he was very good father. He took little Royce to daycare in Dorchester every day. He had dropped out of school in his junior year, but with help he enrolled at Cambridge Rindge and Latin and was even able to get little Royce into daycare there all on his own.

While in school full-time and raising his son on his own, he diligently searched for housing on his own. He received section 8 housing and got an apartment in Dorchester in April of 2013. He was able to finish out the year at Rindge despite moving.

What makes his achievements so great is that he suffered from a brain tumor, which was drained frequently, and he suffered from depression. His mother used him to feed her habit. Royce had little, but he cared for his mother and thought she would change so he gave to her what little he had. With Barbara’s help, he learned to let go of his mother in order to take better care of his son. But it often left him sad, unsure of whether he could continue on. But he did. Barbara recalls, “He got what he got because he wanted to get it.” Royce wanted to provide a better life for his son than he had.

Royce was in shelter for a little over a year before he found housing. And today, he’s employed and still has his apartment in Dorchester with his son. Every December, around his birthday, Royce comes to visit Barbara at Bishop Allen. He considers her family for all she taught him. He’ll be 23 this year. He has overcome so much, thanks to his hard work and a little help from Hildebrand.

Drita, a 22 year old single mother of two, came to Hildebrand to escape domestic violence. Originally from Albania, Drita was married in the United States where she gave birth to their two boys. Unfortunately, her husband’s abuse led her to flee the marriage. A month after coming to Hildebrand, her passport expired – which became a huge obstacle for her to move on and gain stability in her life. With the help of Barbara, her two boys received childcare. The younger, Benik, went to the Salvation Army while the older, Endrit*, enrolled in the elementary school that Barbara worked in.

Because her passport expired, “[Drita] was just a number.” She tried to get into Empire Beauty School, but was denied because she did not have a picture ID. She was offered a job, but because her ID had expired, the offer was revoked. She tried to open a bank account at Santander Bank, but was initially denied, again because she lacked picture identification. However, with the help of Barbara’s diligence, Drita was able to open a savings account.

Drita moved into scattered site shelter before attaining section 8 housing in Salem. Barbara was proud of Drita even before she moved to Salem because she was the very definition of a mother. She took them to the Cambridge Public Library after school and was able to travel using public transportation in spite of her language barrier. Drita kept in touch with Barbara for about a year after she moved to Salem. When last they spoke, Drita was divorced and had a renewed passport and green card, and she was enrolled at Bunker Hill Community College.

“It’s called ‘self-help.’ They can stand on their own two feet, but we help them get there. But how do we help them when they are gone, what do we tell them?” Barbara asked. Once clients move beyond shelter, case managers work with them for a year to help them maintain self-sufficiency. But it becomes a different, much more emotional experience for clients and residential staff alike when clients leave the congregate living programs. The clients and residential staff alike want their stories to end in success.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of our clients.

Panel discussion.

Investing in Your Staff

A reaction to “Lessons from Leaders,” a panel at ADVANCE the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network annual conference

21 October 2015

It was a warm fall morning, bursting with traffic down route 128 and the mass pike, the ballroom at the Sheraton Framingham was bustling with nearly 600 people employed at over 400 different nonprofits in Massachusetts. Tammy Dowley-Blackman, the Vice President of CFLeads, moderated the opening plenary, “Lessons from Leaders.” She began the discussion by asking, “How do we do this work and how do we do it well?”

Stewart Lanier, the Director of Consulting & Executive Transitions at Third Sector New England, situates his audiences with a statistic: 64% of nonprofit leaders say they will be leaving their position in 5 years. These leaders, predominately white baby boomers, are “getting off the highway” while Gen-Xers are honking and millennials are looking for alternative routes.

The, perhaps, biggest problem is that the sector under invests in its people, focusing only 1% of its resources on professional development. There is a pressure to fundraise for programming, but not to invest in the staff. “What is the right model of leadership,” Lanier asks before the moderator probes another panelist.

Lisa Brown Morton, the CEO of Nonprofit HR, notes that 68% of nonprofits operate without a succession plan. Nonprofits are facing real challenges around the people they need, she said, they need reality based solutions. And, according to Brown Morton, we need to invest in human resources or, as she refers to it, “human capital.” She recalls three areas that impede upon investment: competitive pay, inability to promote from within, and excessive workloads.

John Bradley, the COO of Year Up, comments that there is an underinvestment in workforce development. At Year Up, which was voted Best Place to Work, Bradley says that they invest a lot of time and energy in the recruiting process to make sure that potential employees are mission-fit. “We are clear on culture right up front,” he said, because if they don’t fit in with the mission and culture both their work and yours will suffer. Bradley says that onboarding is key — 30 days on every new hire at Year Up. It’s important to set objectives, review talent, and chart succession.

Moderator Dowley-Blackman asks, “Where is the sector headed?” Of note, Brown Morton gives two points: (1) more nonprofits are giving or creating new positions for growth opportunities from within and (2) developing recruitment and retention strategies. “Leaders need to get better at asking for resources to better our people,” Lanier says, which sparks a murmur in the crowd. A fellow audience member asks, “Organizations are rewarded for underpaying our employees, how do we justify workforce development when they may move on to another employment opportunity?”

Dowley-Blackman suggests that you quantify your turnover and show how it negatively impacts your organization. On their closing words: Lanier: “Ask”; Brown Morton: “Invest in human capital”; Bradley: “Make it part of your culture.”

This panel was an eye opening experience because Hildebrand prides itself on its investment of employees. We love to promote from within, offer competitive pay and benefits, and provide opportunities for staff to grow within their position and within the company. While oftentimes funders or board members put their focus and care into the support of those being served, it’s important to note that if we do not invest in our employees that might not be putting forth their best self. We are lucky to have a culture, board of directors, and senior management that prides itself the betterment of both clients and staff alike.

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