By John Lynds
At the Crossroads Family Shelter’s annual legislative breakfast last Thursday, two residents of the transitional shelter for homeless families gave emotaional testimony in front of a crowd of housing advocates and East Boston elected officials.
The residents and other housing advocates were at Crossroads to lobby elected officials like Senator Joseph Boncore, Rep. Adrian Madaro and House Speaker Robert DeLeo to preserve funding to homeless shelters like Crossroads. Also on hand was City Councilor Sal LaMattina and At Large City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George.
The stories of Fior Guerrero and Analuisa Diaz were not unlike any other homeless single mothers trying to raise a child in the state’s shelter system. The two women lived on their own until times got tough. They were both working towards a goal and trying to make a good life for themselves and their children but each found it harder and harder to keep up with the rise in housing costs.
The two brave women’s’ speeches were the highlight of the morning and the details of their own struggles to find a safe place to live was sobering.
“Each day, at Crossroads we serve more than sixty families,” said Crossroads Director Rachel Hennessey-Crowell. “That’s a lot. We have 27 families who are living in the shelter, as well as another approximately 25 families who we follow for the first year after they make a move to permanent housing as part of our stabilization service. This year, we began serving another seven families through our partnership with the East Boston Community Development Corporation. These seven families are also transitioning from the family shelter system.”
Hennessey-Crowell said Crossroads’ mission continues to be to provide families with shelter and support so they may transition from the experience of homelessness to self-sufficiency, in safe, stable and independent housing.
“Our mission is a noble one,” she said. “However, the reality of the work, and the experience of homelessness for our families is grueling. In many ways, the Crossroads team is here to make that experience as tolerable and productive as possible for the families we serve.”
Hennessey-Crowell thanked the elected officials for the earmark in the state budget for the operation of an education and workforce development center for residents at Crossroads. The earmark was first secured by Rep. Madaro and supported in the Senate by Sen. Boncore.
“Yet, there remains much, much more to do, and we need your help,” said Hennessey-Crowell. “We sincerely appreciate your financial support and in-kind support including—bed-in-a-bag, pillows, blankets and toiletries, yoga mats and arts and craft supplies to foster community and gift cards to stores are always helpful so we may meet the needs of our families. Of course, we are always looking to update computers, refrigerators, and freezers to further enhance our families’ lives.”
The breakfast and open house was also able to raise nearly $20,000 in support of programs and services. For thirty years, Crossroads Family Shelter has supported families as they transition from homelessness to independent living and self-sufficiency.
.In 2012, Crossroads became a subsidiary of St. Mary’s Center, which is located in Uphams Corner in Dorchester. Crossroads provides shelter, stabilization services, and food pantry assistance to more than 100 formerly-homeless and low-income families each year.
“East Boston is among the most loyal and dedicated of communities. Its citizens rally to support anyone in need. Crossroads is blessed to have so many elected officials, businesses and individuals who together are literally and figuratively the village it takes to support our most vulnerable,” said Deirdre Houtmeyers, President of St. Mary’s Center and Crossroads.
Crossroads was established, by the Most Holy Redeemer parish and Father Bernard McLaughlin. The doors first opened for a family displaced by a devastating fire and quickly expanded capacity and services in response to the growing phenomenon of family homelessness in Boston.