Housing First

At the age of 17, I was a teenage mom experiencing “coach-surfing,” a term used quite often to describe those moving from place to place because they lacked housing. Being a young mom and due to my family situation, I needed to find affordable housing quickly. Luckily, I received Emergency Assistance and was able to find an apartment. Later, I received a Section 8 voucher and moved to an apartment that was better suited for a small family.

Housing First is a housing approach that understands that for people experiencing homelessness, housing is needed first, and supportive services are often needed to increase housing stability. As a participant receiving Section 8, I utilized these supportive services and enrolled in the Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS).

The FSS Program provided case management, financial coaching, and workforce development opportunities. These services provided the skills and education I needed to become more self-sufficient. In addition, the program worked with me to establish an Emergency Savings account. As my earners grew, a portion of the rent increases under the program went into the Emergency Savings Account. Having this account helped move my family from poverty to become economically sufficient today.

Today, thanks to all the teachers and direct care staff who believed in my potential, I can give back to those in a similar position as part of the Team at Renae’s Place, the YWCA Cambridge’s Family Shelter. Renae’s Place has been providing Emergency Assistance Housing and supportive services to families since 1987. Staff work independently as well as with other nonprofit agencies so that residents have access to a whole wide range of supporting services areas such as:  

  • Financial Literacy
  • Parenting
  • ESL Classes
  • Vocational training
  • Children’s programming
  • Legal Services
  • Camp and summer referrals, and more.

If you know of anyone in need of housing, please check out our YWCA Cambridge Resource page at https://ywcacam.org/resources/.

By: Carol Lyons, Director of Operations

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