Together, Boston area nonprofits are helping to ensure that all children get the support they need to build a brighter future. #kidsfirst
For more information, please visit www.weputkidsfirst.org.
For more information, please visit www.weputkidsfirst.org.
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:
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.
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.
Every family has a home.
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.
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:
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
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.
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Cambridge, MA 02139