By Stacy Randell
The home page of Harborlight Community Partner’s website begins with the heading Providing Homes and Community Support. Imagine a world for a second where everyone has those two essential ingredients for success. The first sentence of the organization’s description is, Everyone deserves a home. This small glimpse into the mission of Harborlight Community Partners demonstrates why I serve on the HCP Board of Directors.
Safe, affordable housing and support allow every person the opportunity to live rather than simply survive. They are the great equalizers in the game of chance called life a life that is largely shaped by where and to whom you are born. Having a reliable place to lay your head is step one. As of August 2015, there were approximately 4,250 families with children and pregnant women in the Massachusetts shelter programs and 1,244 these families were being sheltered in motels. Close to 6200 families received Emergency Assistance in 2015, but almost 12,000 applied for it (the assistance provided via the Commonwealth’s Emergency Assistance Program). Although the majority of homeless children in Massachusetts are under 5, there were 9,493 high school-aged students in public schools who experience homelessness on any given day.
We must have conversations about the need for affordable housing and income parity regularly, with everyone in our circles of influence personally and professionally. The HCP Resident Advisory Council, on which I also serve, will help to facilitate those conversations and allow for those who know firsthand the benefits of affordable housing to speak about the difference it has made for themselves and their families.
I am one of those people. My son is one of those people. As a single parent household living at or below the poverty line, there are all kinds of dire statistics that could have characterized my son’s future. He is one of the 20 million children in the US who grow up without a father in the home. Fatherless children are 20 times more likely to go to prison. Ten times more likely to become addicted to substances; 44% more likely to live in poverty. 90% of all runaway and homeless youth. 9 % more likely to drop out of school.
Poverty. Substance Abuse. Low Educational Attainment. Criminality and Violence. Poor Physical and Emotional Health. None of these describe my son, a junior at Roger Williams University, on the Dean’s list with a double major of Biology/Chemistry. A home and community support. He was blessed with both.
This difference for us? Having the opportunity to buy a first-time buyer affordable home, where we have lived for the past 18 years, was a tremendous protective factor that enabled him to escape the fate described by nationwide data.
I was not only able to pay my mortgage; I was able to finish my Masters Degree. I was able to save, and therefore to dream. Able to live and not merely survive.
As a nation and a state, we have spent a staggering amount of money on the emergency shelter system while mostly ignoring the development of sustainable, affordable housing the only true solution to homelessness. The fiscal costs are minuscule compared to the human costs. Poor children, families, veterans, individuals, people with disabilities and senior citizens are paying these costs – too high a price – with their lives. They have been paying for way too long.
People of all ages and family size need and deserve affordable housing. It is so much more than a roof over your head. It is the foundation for your soul.
About our guest blog author:
Stacy Randell is the Director of the Adult Learning Center at North Shore Community College. Previously, she worked as the Director of Cape Ann Families at Wellspring House, Inc., and as a Resident Service Coordinator for The Caleb Group. She is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies in Boston and is the recipient of several awards of excellence from the McCormack School. An outspoken advocate for the need for affordable housing in our communities, Stacy served as the former chair of the Gloucester Community Preservation Committee and is currently the president of the Haven Terrace Condo Association. Stacy also serves on the Board of Directors for Harborlight Community Partners and was the recipient of HCP’s 2015 Resident Partners Award.