Tag: homeless families

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

Two women smiling for camera in front of the Hildebrand sign.

The Parenting Journey

We’re excited to host The Parenting Journey workshop series, which helps parents to become more confident by building on their strengths, resulting in a more nurturing family relationship. Many parents are often best served by first stepping back and reflecting on their own childhood experiences, before they begin to develop concrete goals for improving their relationship with their own children. Facilitated by our own case managers, Marisol and Meaghan, this 12-week workshop series focuses on promoting attitudes that enhance good parenting behaviors as well as providing the tools for parents to effectively model these behaviors at home. Marisol and Meaghan are in a unique position because they participated in a 5-day experience of The Parenting Journey training.

During the first three days of the facilitator training, Marisol, Meaghan, and the other participants went through the actual experience of being in a Parenting Journey group. Meaghan recalls, “During the group, I was able to really take a look at my childhood and relate it to my relationships with others. The Parenting Journey is a challenging experience where you develop bonds with others also participating in this group.” Marisol reiterates Meaghan’s sentiment, stating, “The parenting journey was the most excellent training I have ever attended. It made me realize how I was parented and now how I parent my own child and have relationships with others.”

Meaghan notes that the Parenting Journey is different from most parenting groups because it does teach a “right” or “wrong” way to parent, rather it provides a deeper understanding of oneself, finding ways to do “self-care” in order to become a more effective parent. According to the Parenting Journey website, “The program model focuses on adult development and the emotional understanding of what it means to be a parent thus filling a void created by traditional parenting classes that often focus solely on child development and disciplinary techniques.”

This program’s mission aligns with our own approach to case management; three terms frequently heard around either the office or congregates are “unconditional positive regard,” “trauma informed care,” and “strengths-based communication.” In essence, the ability to offer respect, acknowledgement, dignity, and warmth to a person no matter what emotions or behaviors he/she offers in return, which involves a feeling of acceptance for a person’s negative, fearful, painful, defensive and abnormal feelings as much as it does a person’s positive, mature and socially normal feelings. As the service provider, we deeply value the humanity of our client, which is not merely the head of household, but each member of the family. The Parenting Journey series will not only serve those attending the program and their families but will ripple into other areas of their lives.

The first Parenting Journey series is being held at Devon House, one of our congregate living programs in Dorchester, beginning on Thursday, April 7th at 5:00 PM. When asked what they hope to bring to the parents who attend, Marisol says, “to show the parents that they are not alone when it comes to parenting or being parented – [it’s a] great way to show clients that you do not need to have children to understand this training.” Meaghan echoes, “helping [the families] realize that they are not alone in this journey as a parent. I also hope to help them realize their self-worth.”

The workshop will be held at Devon House from 5:00 to 7:00 PM on Thursdays, April 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th, May 5th, 12th, 19th, and 26th, and June 2nd, 9th, 16th, and 23rd. Dinner and child care will be provided each week. *Workshop is limited to Devon families.

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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.