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.

Hildebrand Partners with CHAPA, The Boston Foundation, and United Way to Help Community Residents in Need Receive Financial Assistance

Hildebrand is working in partnership with Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), The Boston Foundation, and United Way on the Neighborhood Emergency Housing Support Program. This pilot program was created to prevent foreclosures, evictions, and homelessness in communities most impacted by the current health and economic crisis by leveraging and supporting community-based organizations and their connections to homeowners and tenants at risk of losing their homes. The goal is to reach residents in need of financial assistance, through extensive community outreach and engagement, and help them submit applications for financial relief to stay in their homes. Madeline Garcia-Gilbert, a Program Manager at Hildebrand, oversees Hildebrand’s outreach and application process. The pilot program operates through June 2022. 

Two small children.

Message From Our CEO, Shiela Y. Moore

Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center represents the lived experience of the disenfranchised, and the fight for equality. We stand with Black Lives Matter, aligned in our commitment to improve the lives of those we serve and dismantle systemic racism, a contributing factor to homelessness.

The fight to end homelessness is inexplicably tied to social, racial and economic justice. As sad and angry as we are about the death of George Floyd and many others, we are aware that communities of color face many forms of violence. Homelessness is violence; poverty and hunger are violence; over- incarceration, poor education and inadequate health care are all assaults on dignity, respect, opportunity, and humanity that tear at the fabric of family and community.

The ongoing pandemic has also had a devastating and disproportionate impact on communities of color and again, reveals their lack of access to medical care which contributes to poorer health outcomes. Hildebrand staff understands this and has been relentless in their efforts to keep families safe.

Homelessness is a condition that disproportionately effects black and brown people. Family homelessness is rooted in race and gender bias, wage inequality, unemployment, displacement (usually caused by gentrification or domestic violence), and housing discrimination and lack of affordability. Ninety percent of the families we serve are people of color who are Black and Latinx. We are in tough times and yet, times have always been tough for those we support. They have always faced an overwhelming confluence of issues, and Hildebrand has been the haven where families come to recover from the trauma brought on by each of these dehumanizing encounters.

Everywhere one looks there is a system that must be fixed, but now we find ourselves less alone in this fight. Recent events not only exposed racial injustices but, for us at Hildebrand, also illuminated the fact that we have always supported the most disenfranchised people, and that the organization itself was born from similar experiences. It is because Blacks were denied the ability to worship in white churches that led to the founding of African Methodist Episcopal movement in the 19th century and the opening of St. Paul Church in Cambridge, which in turn founded Hildebrand. We exist because the Black community is resilient, resourceful and empathic; these qualities are at the core of our work. We exist to improve the conditions that lead to family homelessness. It is our collective lived experience. We are keenly aware of our legacy and proud of Hildebrand’s place in history.

Hildebrand’s history is the foundation upon which we build brighter futures for families experiencing homelessness. We are committed – now more than ever – to continue working with, and on behalf of, vulnerable families in the fight for justice and equality. Hildebrand was born out of African Americans’ response to discrimination and inequality. Our work matters. Black Lives Matter.

An African-American Man and South Asian-American man smiling for the camera with people and the Hildebrand logo visible in background.

Coming Home: A Client Success

In October, we hosted our first Open House at our administrative office here in Cambridge. We were fortunate enough to have a former client come and speak about his experience. Humbled by his experience Ibrahim had given a relatively short summary of his experience before going on to explain the long-lasting affects the circumstances that led him to Hildebrand continues to have on him and his family. In short, he escaped war-torn Sudan and seven years later is now a proud homeowner, here in Massachusetts. Read his story below:

Ibrahim and his family escaped war-torn Sudan as political refugees in 2010. They faced the reality that children were being shot in the streets or kidnapped to join the army, and knew they had to seek refuge elsewhere. Ibrahim had been sent to prison after refusing to join the army and participate in the mass genocide that was taking place.

His family realized that they had to leave Sudan in order to survive. Ibrahim shared with us that the decision to leave was not easy, but he realized “this is war and you must leave everything to survive war – even your clothes.”

Forced to flee the country where he worked as an architect the family walked through the night in order to cross the border into Egypt undetected. They spent time in refugee camps in there, before coming to Boston, where they didn’t know anyone. His wife gave birth to their third child in one of those refugee camps, it’s a miracle they both survived with little access to medical supplies. His family lived in a hotel for seven months before coming to Hildebrand in 2011.

The unit they had lived in before coming to us was unhealthy for his three children, exacerbating their asthma and requiring multiple visits to the doctors and emergency rooms. They came to Hildebrand to preserve their lives. Ibrahim found a job at Logan Airport, and he and his wife attended college while living here.

While at Hildebrand his family received their green cards, and he was excited to apply for citizenship because he came to the United States for the opportunities the country provided, to build a better life, and a better future. Ibrahim and his family moved out of shelter in 2012. For many years, Ibrahim worked three jobs to save money and support their growing family while his wife endured heart surgery while attending school to become a teacher.

Despite all they had faced, this family has continued to strive and persevere and in the summer of 2017, Ibrahim and his wife purchased their own home in Sharon, MA! During our discussion about their struggles Ibrahim shared with us his love for his country and the people that helped to support them. “We are so happy to be here. We love America and we are American now. As a family we accept everyone and love all traditions. We live and die for America.”

The trauma of their experiences still affects them, but Ibrahim and his family continue to thrive in their life here in America.

Ibrahim is pictured right above with his former case manager, Marc Jean-Jacques.

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.

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