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

Tanner Residence, a Safe, Affordable Home for Single Women

LeNay Harper
Director of Housing and Shelter Services

No matter how you think about it, the one thing no one ever wants to be is homeless.

Without a roof (permanent or temporary) over your head, without a bed to sleep in, and without a  place you can come to at the end of your day, lock your door, and feel safe, the world can be a scary place in which to live. Not all, but many of the residents at the YWCA Cambridge’s Tanner Residence have experienced long term homelessness. They have known that feeling of being invisible – where no one wants to acknowledge, speak to, or even provide you with any assistance. Tanner Residence is a respite from that sense of not belonging. A place of welcome for all.

YWCA Cambridge offers 103 units of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) housing at the Tanner Residence with a number of different payment options. Some of our rooms are private pay, market rate; others are set aside for specific service providers, and yet other rooms are available through Cambridge Housing Authority’s Mobile Resource Voucher Program (MRVP) or Section 8 vouchers. Regardless of how women arrive at Tanner Residence or what payment arrangement meets their individual needs, each has her own room with access to shared bathroom, kitchen and laundry facilities, and to a large ground floor community room as well as to smaller community rooms located throughout the building.

YWCA Cambridge’s Director of Housing & Shelter Services provides supportive services to our residents through assistance identifying and engaging community resources and referrals, advocacy, housing searches, crisis intervention and much more. She also coordinates educational and informational workshops and meetings, wellness activities and social events. Tanner Residence is a non-smoking, elevator accessible building with 24-hour staffing. A beautifully landscaped outdoor area is available for the residents to enjoy, weather permitting.

Agency and service provider representatives are invited to share information and resources with our residents and to offer assistance in areas such as job preparedness, life skills training, credit repair and other services in Cambridge and the surrounding area..

Whether our residents wish to continue living at YWCA Cambridge’s Tanner Residence or move into accommodations elsewhere, our goal is to help provide the necessary tools that will enable them to live long-term in safe, affordable housing, while using their voices to advocate successfully for themselves.

We Are On a Mission in 2018.

When thinking about the New Year and what it means for YWCA Cambridge, we began to look at the four core programs that make us who we are. Those four programs are: Housing and Shelter Services; Health and Wellness; Empowerment and Economic Advancement of Women and Girls; and Racial and Social Justice. Each area is key to the success of our mission: to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

In order to highlight our efforts in 2018, we have created this blog to showcase issues, achievements, stories, and events surrounding our program areas.  From telling the stories of our girls leadership program (GOLD) participants to reporting on our efforts to overcome the issues of personal and institutional racism, we want to give you the ins and outs of YWCA Cambridge through monthly blog posts. Our goal with this blog is to educate, motivate and create conversations about each program area.

We want to know what issues are important to you. Tell us what you want to hear or learn more about! Email Whitney at wmooney@ywcacam.org.