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.

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.

Blonde woman smiling for camera.

It Takes a Community…

The weather is starting to turn towards spring, but just a couple of weeks ago, we had one of those bitter cold New England weekends. For most of us, we are able to turn up the heat and stay sheltered from the weather. Especially on days like those, I think about how tough it must be if you don’t have easy access to things some of us take for granted– proper clothes, ability to pay the oil bill, a roof over your head. I remember how fortunate I am to be able to wait out the winter freeze in a home I call my own. I am also reminded how fortunate we all are that there are many others who help those who do not have that luxury.

Hildebrand is one of those others – an organization that works with families experiencing homelessness. Their vision, to ensure that every family has a home, is embodied by the day-to-day work that they do to help families move towards sustainable, permanent housing. They work with and in our community to help others get in out of the cold permanently.

I became involved with Hildebrand through a local church where I was a member. Hildebrand has its roots in the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cambridge and they embrace that history by maintaining ties with local churches as well as other community-based organizations. The Executive Director at the time was starting a new program to help families maintain housing stability, additional support to keep families in homes once they found a place to transition. I didn’t know a lot about Hildebrand at the time, but I believed then and now that community engagement is critical to the success of all its constituents. I could see that Hildebrand was leveraging that idea and wanted to be a part of it.

I have since learned firsthand about Hildebrand and its commitment to the community and the clients they serve as I have served on the board of directors for 7 years. It is energizing to be part of an organization that is emerging as a leader in the complex world of homelessness. Hildebrand is continuously striving to understand the changing environment, find relevant and feasible solutions to the challenges families face, and, most importantly, to have a vision of how the future could look. With a new Chief Executive Officer on board, Shiela Y. Moore, and an incredibly dedicated staff, it is hard not to have enthusiasm for what they do. Listen to any staff member excitedly talk about a family who moved into an apartment, the father’s nurturing program, or delivering turkeys before Thanksgiving, and you cannot help but be impressed by the enthusiasm and great work of the staff. The staff and the families they serve do not always have easy days. The obstacles they face are numerous. Knowing the landscape of housing and what it takes to support a family and to identify and maintain stable permanent housing is quite an undertaking.

The face of homelessness is changing; we are seeing more families and more young people entering the system and re-entering the system. Globally, many more families are being displaced and homeless without adequate refuge due to civil unrest. Every community is facing the challenge of ensuring basic needs for all its constituents. We will need more community-based efforts to make it happen. We will need organizations like Hildebrand to continue to grow and lead the way in finding the right solutions to solve the homeless dilemma.

This winter, most of us have a warm place to wait out the cold; Hildebrand’s vision is that every family has that comfort. Please check out their website or reach out if you want to learn more.

Do you want to help support Hildebrand?


614 Massachusetts Avenue
Third Floor
Cambridge, MA 02139

Ph: 617-491-5752
F: 617-491-2385
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.