The Gulf Between Homeownership and Family Homelessness

We can all agree that keeping a roof over one’s head is more expensive than ever whether you are looking to buy a home or rent, but renters face the most challenges.

At one end of the spectrum are higher-income earners and investors who have been fueling the housing market, as they took advantage of low interest rates and earnings that kept up with, or surpassed, inflation.

Homeowners get to build wealth through equity and it’s been nothing but good news during this most recent housing boom, especially in places like the Boston area.

Now that inflation has taken a foothold in the country, some housing market analysts believe that a cooling off of the hot nationwide housing market is coming, due to rising interest rates, as evidenced by the number of mortgage application cancellations. As mortgage rates have risen, prospective buyers are concerned about needing higher down payments and larger monthly mortgage obligations. According to the real estate firm Redfin, mortgage application cancellations went up to 15% in June.

At the other end of the housing spectrum are those who were formerly homeless and are now looking to transition out of shelter into housing. They are looking to rent apartments, usually 2-bedrooms in the case of families working with Hildebrand. The recently released The State of the Nation’s Housing 2022 report, by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, noted that not only have housing prices continued to rise but that nationally, the rents in professionally-managed properties rose 12% in the first quarter of this year. This has put a strain on Hildebrand’s ability to move families out of shelter and into affordable permanent housing. Concurrently, now that pandemic relief programs have faded and fears of contracting COVID-19 in congregate living are waning, we are seeing the strain on the other end of the housing spectrum – emergency shelter – as more families seeking shelter come to Hildebrand and need us to guide them through realistic housing options.

Although we do have formerly homeless families who are now homeowners, our focus is on those families who are transitioning from shelter and looking for affordable apartments. Even more to the point, most will need to find subsidized housing because heads of households in Hildebrand shelters, working full-time, made an average of $16.79 per hour over the last quarter. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, to afford the fair market rent for a 2-bedroom in Boston in 2021, one would have to pay $2,336 and need to earn $44.92 per hour. This is on par with what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) established as the fair market rents (FMR) for rental units in the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy area of $2,339 for 2022. In 2015, HUD set the rent it would pay for a 2-bedroom unit at $1,494. In 2022, it is $2,399. This means that rents jumped over $1,000/month in this 7-year period. This also explains why families at the lowest end of the economic spectrum remain trapped at the bottom of the housing ecosystem: their wages simply cannot keep up with rising rents.

Hildebrand recently purchased an 11-unit building in Dorchester that will double our permanent housing portfolio to 22 units, and keep affordable housing at the forefront of Hildebrand’s efforts to disrupt the systems that lead to poverty and homelessness. This includes even stronger advocacy and raising awareness of the factors that lead to homelessness.

We must remain committed to increasing the supply of affordable housing, expanding supports for families to search for and find permanent, affordable homes, and to do even more to keep families from falling into homelessness. Affordable housing is and should continue to be a primary focus, but so should access to affordable healthcare and mental health services; livable wages; and more easily accessible pathways out of poverty (e.g., through higher education and training programs) and domestic violence. These are key factors that put families on a path to homelessness rather than home ownership, and keep the gulf wide between opportunity and reality.

Hildebrand at Humphreys Celebration Event!

The light showers and cold temperature on Thursday, May 19, could not deter Hildebrand from celebrating its newest affordable housing acquisition, 12 Humphreys Street, Dorchester! This acquisition supports Hildebrand’s mission of providing shelter and permanent housing to families experiencing homelessness and ensures that the apartments in the building remain affordable for residents.

“I’m so excited that these 11 apartments will remain affordable for Boston’s children and families”, said Shiela Y. Moore, Hildebrand’s CEO. “This doubles Hildebrand’s permanent housing ownership and continues to strengthen our supportive network in Boston for families experiencing homelessness. Hildebrand’s vision is every family has a home, and adding 12 Humphreys Street to our real estate portfolio will help us continue to make that vision a reality. Housing insecurity continues to increase in Massachusetts. So Hildebrand’s capacity and impact will also continue to increase, to make sure that each and every family finds shelter, support and – when ready – a home of their own again.”

The celebration was terrific, despite the weather! Speeches from Sheila Dillon, Chief of the Mayor’s Office of Housing, and Sara Barcan from CEDAC inspired and reminded attendees of the importance and impact of Hildebrand’s vision that every family has a home. A very special thank you to everyone celebrated with Hildebrand, especially Hildebrand’s Board and staff whose dedication, support, and advocacy on behalf of the organization and the families served is truly inspiring. Seth Daniel from the Dorchester Reporter came to the celebration; please enjoy his article below!

Homeless families find refuge on Humphreys Street | Dorchester Reporter

Hildebrand Receives the Cradles to Crayons Chairman’s Council Impact Award

At a virtual event on Wednesday, June 1, 2022, national nonprofit Cradles to Crayons® recognized Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center as the recipient of the 2022 Chairman’s Council Impact Award. Cradles to Crayons—the only national organization focused on mitigating Children’s Clothing Insecurity by providing clothing and other essentials at no charge on a large scale—honors one Service Partner each year for excellence in collaboration and programmatic impact. Cradles to Crayons selected Hildebrand in support of their goal to expand their Resource Center program for clients with more consistent and customized interactions with children and families in shelter, ensuring the children and families experiencing homelessness that work with Hildebrand are supported and prepared for all situations.

“We are proud to present this year’s Chairman’s Council Impact Award to Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center,” said Lynn Margherio, Founder and CEO of Cradles to Crayons. “In addition to their well-established housing and self-sufficiency programs, they have increased their focus on supporting families with everyday essentials like clothing and diapers. Community and collaboration are integral components of Hildebrand’s model and exemplify the core values of this award. Service Partners are an essential part of what we do at Cradles to Crayons, and we’re delighted to highlight and support their incredible work. Congratulations, Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center!” 

Lack of access to clothing and other basics can have significant negative short- and long-term impacts on children like delays in emotional and academic development, low self-esteem, health conditions, and more. “Hildebrand is so honored to receive the Chairman’s Council Impact Award from Cradles to Crayons. Our organizations share a commitment to children of families experiencing homelessness, who are living in shelter and are without the essentials that will help them feel comfortable, valued, and ready to move forward,” said Shiela Y. Moore, CEO of Hildebrand. “Whether it’s diapers for a 2-month-old, a new stylish winter coat for a 3rd grader, warm and cozy pajamas for all the children in a family settling into shelter, school supplies for an eager learner, or shorts and tops for a young athlete, Hildebrand and Cradles to Crayons understand the importance of these essential items that many take for granted. The partnership between Hildebrand and Cradles to Crayons helps children in Hildebrand’s shelters stabilize, stay healthy and warm, and find comfort and dignity at such a difficult time in their lives, as they experience homelessness with their parents.” 

Cradles to Crayons supported Hildebrand’s families with nearly 400 packages of additional essentials in the past year. The two organizations will continue to collaborate to ensure that children have the clothing, diapers, hygiene items, and the school suppliesthey need to thrive.

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 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

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

Two professional women smiling for camera.

Why I Joined the Hildebrand Board, by Kelly Mann

When people ask why you joined a Board of Directors for a non-profit they are most often anticipating a heartwarming story of immediate connection with the mission of the organization. Sitting on a Board is often not glamorous and involves a lot of agenda driven conversation, voting on motions, and reviewing an unending stream of paperwork. It would take someone whose heart is in the mission of a nonprofit to join their Board. However, if I am to be honest about why I joined the Board for Hildebrand it wouldn’t involve this immediate “mission connection.” I joined the Board for Hildebrand because I was told too.

In 2007, I was working at Coldwell Banker and on top of my regular job I spearheaded a few different events for local non-profits. At that time one of the executives, Mark Lippolt, was highly involved in the charitable arm of the company. I never hesitated to work on anything that Mark brought my way and always felt passionate and driven to make the event successful. So imagine my dismay when one day Mark pulled me aside to tell me he felt I could do more, that I could do better, that I should step outside my comfort zone. And here I was thinking “but isn’t this enough?”

Mark saw something in me at the time and since he is now not only a mentor but a dear friend, I can see it more clearly. What Mark saw in me was POTENTIAL.

POTENTIAL: it is a strong word. Sometimes it is a dangerous word – but mostly it is an unstoppable word. If you see potential in someone, you are seeing them move forward despite obstacles placed in front of them.

How does this tie into Hildebrand? It’s easy: when a client walks through the door here is what the staff at Hildebrand does NOT see: failure, inability, weakness. What the Hildebrand staff does see in the clients: POTENTIAL. Hildebrand sees a client finding safe shelter, getting a job, caring for their own mental well-being as well as their children’s and, eventually, finding permanent housing and becoming self-sufficient.

Here are some other things about seeing the potential in someone – when you see potential in someone you are telling them that you have faith in them, you believe in them, that they are considered worthy. When you see potential in someone you see success and not just failure, you see the joys, the obstacles, the high and lows and everything in between, and you never see the end because there is no end.

Because potential is seeing what is possible in a person as opposed to where they actually are.

Imagine having that every day of your life? You walk through a door with no home, no money, in crisis mode and yet someone is standing there telling you that you will succeed and they will help you because where you are now does not define you. And that is what Hildebrand does. They never leave your side. They walk that path with every client.

I am happy to report that in Mark seeing my potential, I have seen the potential in myself with Hildebrand. I have scratched the surface of my own life to learn that maybe I’m not so far from that family that walks through Hildebrand’s front door. That my ancestors at one time were searching for a Hildebrand to see their potential.

If you were to ask me today why I am still on the Board of Hildebrand and why I serve as the Chair I would tell you it is because I witness a staff that leads by example, that when I go to meetings I hear the good and the bad our clients experience and I learn from staff members what it means to walk next to someone on their path. I would tell you it is because I believe that Hildebrand’s vision, every family has a home, is not just a dream but a reality. I am passionate about supporting an organization that can see a better future, regardless of the starting point, and strives to achieve this for every client.

As we go through this holiday season ask yourself if you could see the potential in a homeless family that walked through your front door. You would certainly want to help them, but how? At Hildebrand, we can show you. We can show you what it means to partner with families to help them regain their footing, to help them prepare for the workforce, to build life skills that they may have never learned. We can share with you the excitement we feel every time we “ring the bell” in the office indicating that a family has found a permanent home or even the small victories when we hold a mothers hand as she tell us what it is like to be able to find and keep a job that will help her family remain self-sufficient.

Potential: sometimes it takes an outsider to see it in us. But once they see it, there is no stopping us!

Happy Holidays to all of you! And if you would like to learn more about Hildebrand and our potential please do not hesitate to reach out to us! We are always looking for new friends!

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.

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