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.
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.

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.

Letter from the Chief Executive Officer

Dear Friends,

We envision a community in which every family has a home.

I am honored to be leading an organization that provides such essential services to families experiencing homelessness. This is my first annual report so this message encompasses my reflection on the past three years. I joined Hildebrand in 2013, and we have been solely focused on transitions, planning, program expansion, and infrastructure building – all in the midst of what was termed a crisis in homelessness.

In 2013, Massachusetts experienced an 8 percent increase in the number of families in shelter as many factors converged to throw a record number of families into homelessness, including Boston’s high cost of living, and lack of affordable housing. I am proud of how Hildebrand rallied to respond to the increasing need for emergency shelter, and we expanded from 99 to 126 units, as over 4,000 homeless families were taken into emergency shelters across the state.

Over the past three years, we never took our eyes off the vision that every family has a home, and we re-examined our unique role in that process. To that end, we clarified the mission, and committed to a strategic direction of expanding intervention and prevention programs. The result of this work was the addition of three units of permanent housing last year, and continued efforts to grow the portfolio beyond its current eleven units. The organization made significant investments in the infrastructure as the number of staff increased from 30 to 60 employees, primarily due to the expansion of congregate living programs because families have far better outcomes with that model. Hildebrand’s congregate living programs now support 53 families who receive 24/7 on-site case management. Another 73 families reside in scattered site locations throughout the Metro Boston region. We also created a special fund (HAND Up) to eliminate one of the most significant barriers to securing permanent housing—payment of initial rents, security deposits, utility arrearage, etc. This effort helped yield placement for 73 families in 2015.

Lastly, we redesigned the website and heightened our social media presence to more effectively connect with those who support of our work. You may have noticed the new logo as well. The arrow in the “H” symbolizes continued upward movement toward ending family homelessness. Someday our vision of a community in which every family has a home will be realized, but in the meantime, it reflects the interventions (e.g. shelter) we provide until that day comes.

Check out our 2015 Annual Report to see more of the important work we do at Hildebrand.

African-American dad with his toddler on his shoulders and they are laughing.

Just in Time for Father’s Day!

Father’s Day is fast approaching, and we wanted to take the time to highlight the Nurturing Fathers Program that we’ve been running over the past 10 weeks. Our goal is to provide support in a peer group setting to fathers, who are often underappreciated. Oftentimes, boys receive mixed messaging about what fatherhood entails. Take, for instance, the portrayal of mothers vs. fathers in sitcoms and television; most often, mothers are celebrated and credited for raising the children. Even when we look at our own culture: during Mother’s Day women are given roses at restaurants and offered respite from their copious responsibilities through pampering and gift-giving. During the weeks leading up to Father’s Day, advertisements highlight power tools and outdoor essentials like grills and lawn mowers. Rather than giving fathers a day of celebration and relaxation, the atmosphere around Father’s Day is to do more work: mow the lawn and grill up some ‘dogs and burgers for the family.

The Nurturing Fathers Program offers a safe space for men to open up, support each other, and get a better perspective on fatherhood. Our own Raychelle, Case Manager, and Marc, Residential Manager at our Cambridge congregates, have been facilitating this program over the past few months and built a strong relationship with the men who’ve been attending. We encourage all fathers to attend, to go on this journey and explore their own childhood, how they were raised, and discover the role that fathers play in their children’s lives. Marc says the program is designed to teach parenting and nurturing skills. He says, “It is also a way for the men in our program to network and to know that they are not alone.”

“The group can be very emotional at times, especially when they have to go back and think about their past. All of the attendees love the group and ask why we didn’t start sooner! We ask each individual to share information about their past and present at their own comfort level, but often because it is all men they feel safe and open to share. We always end with a group hug,” Marc explains.

Raychelle adds, “Nurturing Fathers isn’t a group that teaches fathers how to be nurturing; they already come with that innately. Nurturing Fathers tends to further along their nurturing process. Through the program, our dads have the freedom to hone in and identify crucial aspects of fatherhood that may be intimately challenging, and process them as a cohesive group that supports one another. Nurturing Fathers is a way for dads to share ideas and concerns as well as stories of triumph and success.”

Every week, fathers are encouraged to bring their children along with them. While the fathers participate in the program, their children have the opportunity to enjoy therapeutic play with staff and interns. Living in shelter can be harrowing and we want to provide everyone with the opportunity to learn and grow while also preparing them for the rigors of life after shelter. Groups like the Nurturing Fathers Program provide one more level of support from peers. Meeting every week helps create more stability and security.

At the end of this 13-week series, the fathers will participate in a graduation celebration with a guest speaker from the Department of Community and Housing Development. Friends and family will be invited to join the celebration. As Father’s Day approaches, be sure to celebrate fathers and father-figures, and appreciate the impact they’ve made on your life.

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

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Email: info@hild-selfhelp.org

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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.