Home for the Holidays
Two years ago, the approaching holidays were looking bleak to Erin. She wanted to share the full joy of the season with her kids. Yet instead of making plans to bake cookies and decorate a tree with her children, Erin knew she’d be fighting for her life – while also hoping to find them a home.
But by the time those dark weeks arrived, Erin drew strength from a greater joy. Thanks to the support of Father Bill’s & MainSpring, she and her children would not be homeless on Christmas after all.
Erin’s terrifying ordeal began in 2016. A single mother, she was 36, working full time and raising two daughters – ages 3 and 5 – when she was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. And just as Erin faced a grueling, lengthy and expensive series of treatments, the lease on her apartment was coming up. With all the uncertainty in her future, she feared she could not afford to renew it.
When a relative offered to let Erin and the girls live with her, she gladly accepted. A month later, she began chemotherapy to shrink the cancer as much as possible before surgery. But abruptly, her relative’s situation changed. Erin and the kids had to move out – with no place to go!
When a staff member at Erin’s medical center heard this, he helped connect her with Father Bill’s & MainSpring, which operates more than 100 scattered-site shelter units for families.
Thankfully, a unit became available in time for Erin. “It was a lifesaver for me and my girls,” says Erin. “They didn’t even know they were in a shelter. That was huge, because I was going through so many physical changes that were already upsetting to them, such as losing my hair.”
But a shelter, however welcome, is never the same as home. It was very important to Erin – and to us – to see her girls in an apartment in time for Christmas.
Our case managers, and other supportive services we provide because of friends like you, assisted Erin in finding secure stable housing. One week before her double mastectomy, the family moved into an apartment in Rockland, her home town.
Because Erin’s cancer was so aggressive, her treatments would continue throughout 2017 and into 2018, including a second surgery, radiation and additional debilitating rounds of chemotherapy.
“I never once asked, ‘Why me?’” she says. “I truly believe I was given this for a reason. It has helped me become a better person and a better mother.”
This May, we rejoiced with Erin when she was able to return to work. And she will be forever grateful that your support of Father Bill’s & MainSpring means her girls, now 5 and 7, are able to bake cookies and decorate a tree in a place of their own.
A Brighter Future
Kenitra and her newborn baby were on the verge of becoming homeless in 2016.
But Kenitra – with the help of Father Bill’s & MainSpring (FBMS) – drew up a plan to find an apartment, secure a job, and access the resources needed to care for her daughter, without ever having to step foot inside a shelter.
“If you follow that plan, there’s no way you’re not going to get back on track,” Kenitra said. “Father Bill’s & MainSpring is like another family to me.”
At FBMS, we believe our communities are only as strong as the support and stability that we provide to our most vulnerable residents, most especially our families who are experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.
As part of FBMS’ strategic plan, we began implementing a new family track that aligned our resources to create a homelessness prevention and diversion team. The model was designed to create better outcomes for families, meaning fewer entries into emergency shelter, shorter shelter stays, more exits to housing and employment, and improved retention of housing.
The plan is working. During fiscal year 2017, our prevention and diversion programs helped 341 families avoid emergency shelter. Over the past two years, we’ve helped 161 families exit shelter and move into permanent housing.
Services to prevent homelessness don’t just help neighbors in need. Preventing families like Kenitra’s from ending up in emergency shelter also means significant cost savings to the public! For example, last year the average expense of providing emergency shelter for a family was $45,981 – compared to $9,526 to help that same family find and move into a new home with a plan for success.
After receiving one-time rental assistance in 2016, Kenitra and her daughter moved into their own apartment in Brockton. Today, Kenitra has a job and the stability she needs to start building a future for her daughter.
A stabilization worker and employment specialist from FBMS are working with Kenitra to help her maintain a budget and remain housed.
“They don’t just close your case,” she said of FBMS. “They stay with you.”
Back on the Right Path
William, who always wanted to be an airplane pilot, enlisted in the Air Force during the war in Vietnam. After two deployments, he came home to Massachusetts with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But that did not keep him from a successful career as a business owner of four supermarkets, or later returning to the skies he loved as a corporate pilot.
William’s life flew on in a steady course, as he raised two children in a comfortable home. Then he ruptured an Achilles tendon. After a doctor prescribed a powerful drug to deal with pain, William – like far too many patients – became addicted to the opioid that was supposed to bring relief. It plunged him into a downward spiral.
“I call it the Great Eraser,” William says now, noting his substance abuse strained relationships and cost him jobs. After several attempts at treatment, he successfully completed rehab in 2013, and moved into an apartment to rebuild his life.
But by 2016, his retirement income from Social Security no longer covered the rent for his modest apartment. William became homeless. For several dark weeks, the Air Force veteran lived in a friend’s truck.
Thankfully, someone referred him to Father Bill’s & MainSpring. With donor support, we moved William into one of our transitional housing units for veterans. A case manager from Father Bill’s & MainSpring began working to connect him to the veterans benefits to which he was entitled.
In February 2017, a federal housing voucher for veterans got William into a new apartment in Weymouth. We provided financial assistance to help him settle in, including funds for a new mattress and bed frame.
Today, William is doing well, and enjoying visits from his kids and five-month-old grandson. “I can’t say enough about Father Bill’s,” he says. “You saved my life.”
When we helped him in 2016, William was one of 500 veterans served by our programs. Because of our ongoing efforts, only 347 veterans needed our help last year. But other veterans, individuals and families still need us in 2018 as they struggle with the high cost of housing.
Your support will help provide emergency assistance for neighbors at risk of losing their homes, as well as shelter, transitional housing and other programs that give those experiencing homelessness a way to rebuild their lives.
Building a Legacy
Thanks to supporters like you, Lenira Andrade is achieving her dreams and providing a better life for her son. She has worked incredibly hard to overcome homelessness, pursue a higher education, and build a rewarding career.
More than 7 years ago, Lenira became homeless after her son, Julius, was born 12-weeks prematurely.
“I wasn’t prepared for anything. I found myself in a situation bringing my baby home to nowhere, to homelessness,” she remembered.
Lenira and her son were placed in one of Father Bill’s & MainSpring’s family shelters and was later referred to the agency’s WorkReady Family program. She was underemployed and a part-time student at the time of her enrollment in WorkReady. While others may have given up on their education, Lenira was determined to accomplish her goal of starting a career in architecture.
The WorkReady program, supported by Secure Jobs funding, identified this as her long-term goal and helped her focus more immediately on finding full-time employment.
“It set me up for success further down the line,” Lenira said of WorkReady.
Having exited shelter with a short-term subsidy, Lenira understood that she needed to make full-time work a priority so that she could remain housed after the subsidy expired. She found employment at Bed Bath & Beyond.
Lenira was able to remain in school full-time — and keep her dreams alive — as a result of being accepted into the One Family Scholars program. She graduated from Massasoit Community College in 2014, and after taking a year to regroup and spend time with Julius, she began the Project Management undergraduate program at Wentworth Institute of Technology with a minor in Estimating. She is due to graduate in December 2018.
Lenira has achieved her long-term goal. She’s currently employed as a Junior Estimator at NEI General Contracting in Randolph. Lenira now has a new long-term goal of purchasing a home.
She recently said: “When I look back on how far I’ve come I get teary-eyed because after so much sacrifice, dedication, and discipline, I accomplished my goals.”
When Colin, a passionate young artist, sat down to draw during the last six months of 2016, a few questions would swirl through his head:
What type of pencil should I use? What should I name my character? And which video game or film will be my inspiration?
Because of your generous support, there was one question Colin didn’t have to ask himself: Will I have a place to sleep tonight?
Colin, 12, and his father, Sean, were homeless for more than six months, but because of Father Bill’s & MainSpring they were able to live in a safe, supportive setting while Colin enrolled in a local school and could focus on his artwork instead of worrying about whether he’d have a bed to sleep in.
“I love drawing because when I draw, I go into my own little zone. I get so calm,” Colin said. ”I can draw whatever I want and make my own little world. Drawing is awesome for me.”
Sean and Colin moved into their own apartment this past February after spending six months at the Conway House in Middleboro, one of two congregate shelters owned by FBMS for families experiencing homelessness.
Though many people equate homelessness as a problem for single individuals, families with young children are often the majority of people experiencing homeless.
Sean said he and his son became homeless last year after unsafe circumstances forced them to leave their home. Sean and Colin moved in with family in Weymouth, but they couldn’t stay more than a few months. So, on June 15 of last year, they moved into FBMS’ Conway House after being referred by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development. Emergency shelter gives families a place to stay temporarily while connecting them with the supportive services they need to ultimately become more self-sufficient.
“I was able to deal with other underlying issues that had been a thorn in my side for years, and I was able to get out from underneath those things,” Sean said about his stay at the Conway House.
At FBMS’ congregate shelters for families, a dedicated team of FBMS employees provide a range of services to parents, including workforce training, searches for permanent housing and one-on-one case management which includes connecting families with financial assistance they qualify for and, if needed, outside treatment for mental and behavioral health issues. The staff also help the kids staying in the shelters enroll in local schools and they coordinate transportation for parents to get to work, doctor’s appointments or other important commitments. Once a family moves out of the shelter and into an apartment, FBMS provides stabilization services for up to a year to help make sure the families don’t end up back at a shelter.
Colin is a 6th grader, where he is a member of his school’s art club. Sean said his son has been creative most of his life. When he was a little, Colin would transform into a knight by making a shield out of a pizza box, a helmet out of a strainer and a sword out of a flag pole. At the Conway House, Sean said Colin spent hours upon hours either drawing or building new creations with LEGOS. Colin said he mostly likes to draw science-fiction and fantasy characters, like robots, cyborgs and dragons, but he recently started experimenting with anime-style pieces. Each of his characters has a backstory and a name, like “Broken,” “Run” and “Gear,” and some of their names are written out in Japanese or Gaelic.
During a meeting with a visitor at the Conway House earlier this year, Colin clutched onto his sketchbook as if it were a block of gold, excitedly explaining the story behind each one of his favorite pieces.
“I sometimes draw to how I’m feeling,” he said.
Proudly watching his son show off his drawings, Sean also shared some accomplishments of his own. While at the Conway House, he got a job, he was able to resolve some outstanding financial liabilities, and he found an apartment for him and Colin. And FBMS helped connect Sean with state HomeBASE funding, which covers the major upfront costs that often keep people from getting housed, like first month’s rent, last month’s rent and a security deposit.
“Father Bill’s has really helped me straighten my life out and make things better for Colin and I,” Sean said.
In fiscal year 2016, FBMS served 1,204 different families through a range of services, including providing emergency shelter, diverting/preventing homelessness with one-time grants or advocacy in Housing Court, securing jobs for parents, and searching for permanent housing.