Housing is a critical social determinant of health. Finding permanent, affordable housing in Massachusetts requires intense, persistent effort and a little bit of luck. Massachusetts ranks as the 3rd least affordable area state in the country, with an estimated shortage of more than 158,000 affordable rental homes – or less than one affordable unit for every two extremely low-income households in need of housing (mahomeless.org/basic-facts).
Searching for housing is complex. There are eligibility requirements, documents to gather, rental applications to fill out, financial forms to complete, waitlists, leases, rules and regulations. Homelessness complicates this process when women lack a consistent address and phone number. Our team of housing specialists helps women through the process, whether they have recently lost their home and don’t know where to begin, or they have been chronically homeless, living on the street, couch surfing, or stuck in a shelter for far too long. Community Health Workers (CHWs) meet individually with clients, help them get on affordable housing waitlists, and provide ongoing support and advocacy to ensure that clients maintain their spot on waitlists until permanent housing becomes available.
Once housed, our work does not stop. Finding permanent housing is hard – staying in that home can be just as hard. Our team will stay with the clients to make sure that they remain housed by following up with to help with:
- Moving in, including a Welcome Home Basket with household essentials and a hand-made blanket
- Furnishing the apartment through vouchers and donations
- Connecting with available support services, including SNAP
- Managing medications for chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma
- Connecting with primary and specialty care, mental health and substance use disorder services as needed
“I finally feel safe. There are no words in the dictionary to describe my gratitude to HCWW and everyone who helped me.”Anna
Anna is a 41 year old woman who has struggled with a congenital skin condition that challenges her physical, mental and emotional well-being. Raised by her grandmother after being abandoned by her parents, she came to the US at the age of 16 only to suffer abuse at the hands of her father. Anna fled and made her way north from Florida to Boston. The horrors she experienced were worse than you can imagine — physical abuse, rape, sex trafficking.
Anna eventually found her way to Health Care Without Walls. It took nearly a year to gain her trust, but our Community Health Worker, nurse practitioner, and volunteer physician kept at it until she was able to share some of her story. We quickly sought assistance and protective services from Dove, an agency specializing in domestic violence protections and services.
Fast forward to today, and Anna is newly housed, thanks to the work of our team in conjunction with Metro Housing Boston. We will continue to support Anna as long as she needs. Today, Anna can smile and is beginning to feel hopeful about her future.