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Mayor Walsh Celebrates St. Mary's Center New Supportive Housing Program; Welcomes New Families to Dorchester

June 21, 2016

Neighborhood Development

Published by:

Neighborhood Development

$4m renovation creates supportive housing for homeless families

BOSTON - Tuesday, June 21, 2016 - Mayor Martin J. Walsh today joined Jim Reed, the New England Regional Administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), federal, city and state officials and representatives of St. Mary's Center for Women and Children at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Mass Maternity First Home program. This new program, housed at St. Mary's Center, will provide supportive housing in a newly-renovated former clinic building on the St. Mary's campus in Dorchester. The new program and its supportive housing will provide opportunities for young homeless families, helping them prepare for fully-integrated independent living.

"The families and children who will find a new start here at St. Mary's Center are part of the future of our city, and we owe it to them to help them succeed," said Mayor Walsh. "The First Home program is an example of how Boston's public and private sector come together to support communities in need. We are grateful to have partnerships with individuals and organizations that are dedicated to helping us put an end to chronic homelessness in Boston. I congratulate St. Mary's Center on this major milestone in the revitalization of the former St. Margaret's Hospital campus, and I welcome their commitment to helping families and their community."

In April, Mayor Walsh announced an additional $1.3 million investment for homelessness services in Boston to further the goals of the City's Action Plan to End Veteran and Chronic Homelessness in Boston. In addition, the Mayor's FY17 budget also includes an increase of $2 million in federal funds to provide low-barrier permanent supportive housing for the homeless. Together, these allocations further the goals of the Mayor's Action Plan and help provide a safety net for some of Boston's most vulnerable residents. Homeless provider partners like St. Mary's Center for Women and Children are integral in helping the City meet its aggressive goals.

The new Mass Maternity First Home program is the fourth residential program on the agency's Dorchester campus, and St. Mary's eighth program overall. This new supportive housing program, which has welcomed four families to date, can serve up to 12 young homeless families at any one time, providing them with the tools, developmental experience and learning opportunities they need to thrive and succeed. The new program and redevelopment of the former clinic was made possible in part through private support of more than $3 million from the Massachusetts Maternity and Foundling Hospital Corporation and $1 million in support from the City of Boston's Department of Neighborhood Development. Residents also have received project-based Massachusetts rental vouchers from the Commonwealth's Department of Housing and Community Development.

"This is a new model for supportive, transitional housing. Because of the generosity of the Board of the Massachusetts Maternity and Foundling Hospital Corporation and the City of Boston, the dream of providing young homeless families with supportive housing is a reality," said Deirdre Houtmeyers, President of St. Mary's Center. "The Mass Maternity's First Home program's vision is to meet a critical and previously unmet need in our community and enable collaboration from government agencies to achieve our goal of partnering with young families on their path to self-sufficiency."

The program offers a multi-disciplinary approach, including social workers, a nurse and case managers. Working with the family as a team, they will help identify and bridge serious gaps in skills, address emotional and social challenges, and overcome barriers to employment and increased financial independence.

Massachusetts Maternity and Foundling Hospital made a substantial gift to provide long-term supportive, transitional housing to young families. In honor of the Foundation, the new program receives its name, Mass Maternity First Home. In the past, the foundation has supported programs that provide housing and services to teen mothers and their children, including nearly $300,000 in past support to the Center's St. Mary's Home, a program for pregnant and parenting teens.

The new program's building is located at 84 Cushing Avenue in Dorchester. The renovation is of the former clinic which was built in the early 1900's as part of St. Margaret's Hospital, which eventually gave the property to St. Mary's Center in 1993. Mayor Walsh and the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy were both born at St. Margaret's Hospital.

St. Mary's Center currently operates four residential shelter programs, including three located on its Dorchester campus as follows: Bridge Home, a stabilization program for 12 children ages 0-12 who have been removed from their home due to abuse, trauma and neglect; St. Mary's Home, a 17-room shelter for pregnant and parenting teens and their children; and Margaret's House, a 36-room program for moms and their children. St. Mary's Center also runs Crossroads, a 15-unit, family shelter in East Boston. St. Mary's Center also has Women's Learning Center and Women@Work Plus, education and employment programs respectively, and is the home to, a 24/7 web-based radio station and after-school and employment program.

All for the 12 new units are offered as affordable housing and the redevelopment contains three single-bedrooms and nine two-bedroom units, including one fully accessible and one sensory-impaired unit. All units have private bathrooms and kitchens and are gas heated by new, high-efficiency boilers. 

About St. Mary's Center for Women and Children

St. Mary's Center for Women and Children offers innovative, family-centered programs for women and children who have experienced trauma and are living in poverty.  Placing families at the center of its efforts, St. Mary's Center works in partnership with young women, many of them mothers, to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and achieve lasting, powerful change by improving their emotional well-being, educational opportunities, and economic independence.

Located in Uphams Corner in Dorchester, Massachusetts, St. Mary's Center supports more than 600 women and children annually with shelter, clinical and educational services, job training, employment placement, and the search for affordable permanent housing.