At the Crossroads Family Shelter annual legislative breakfast last Tuesday, one resident of the transitional shelter for homeless families gave an emotional testimony in front of a crowd of housing advocates and East Boston elected officials.
The resident and other housing advocates were at Crossroads to lobby elected officials like Sen. Joseph Boncore, Rep. Adrian Madaro and House Speaker Robert DeLeo to preserve funding to homeless shelters like Crossroads. Also on hand was City Councilor Lydia Edwards.
The story of Ladee Lewis was not unlike any other homeless single mothers trying to raise a child in the state’s shelter system. Lewis lived on her own with her 3-year-old child until times got tough.
“My name is Ladee Lewis. I have a 3-year-old named Royal. I’m also a single parent who’s spent the majority of my son’s life in hospitals because my son has severe medical needs,” Lewis said. “I was forced to move to Massachusetts seeking better health care and a roof to shield us. This experience was so overwhelming that I reached out to my sister for help. My sister was kind enough to open her studio apartment to us. We stayed there for one month before the landlord noticed that it was over-crowded. She was immediately given more than one eviction notice, which forced me to try desperately to move into a shelter.”
Lewis said she was repeatedly denied access to shelters until finally she and her child were placed at Crossroads Family Shelter on June 4 of this year.
“Crossroads helped us in so many ways,” she said. “We were provided food, shelter, clothing, and reliable networks when we needed it the most. In such a short time of being here, I was able to stabilize my life with help. l’m now able to manage time, budget, partner with others and focus on a foundation for when I move.”
Despite the stress of being homeless Lewis said she still has to keep building and focus on her son.
“I can admit that it’s hard to focus on a permanent solution while living in such a temporary setting,” said Lewis. “If I had housing, I could give 100 percent to my son and myself. I recognize that with a stable environment I can achieve goals that I have set for my son and I. I can ensure not just stable living but a stable life. Life gets hard and there will be more roadblocks ahead but hopefully soon stability and security are two things I can check off my list of goals. At this point all I can do is hope. Hope is what got me here and hope is what’s going to propel me to the next step in life.”
Lewis’s speech was the highlight of the morning and the details of her struggles to find a safe place to live was sobering.
Crossroads Director Lauren Antonelli 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.
“Crossroads makes progress every day towards our mission of supporting families as they transition from homelessness to independent living and self-sufficiency,” said Antonelli. “We are so thrilled that in FY’18, which just concluded over the summer, we successfully placed 25 of the 27 families we serve into permanent housing. That is, we believe, a record high in the history of Crossroads. This was all made possible by the hard work and dedication of those fighting for a better future for their families, along with funding and partnerships at both the City and State levels. Over the last year, we further solidified our relationship with Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) and moved three families into permanent housing right here in East Boston. In addition, NOAH is the landlord for our eight shelter scattered site apartments, in which 12 different families reside.”
Antonelli 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 by Speaker DeLeo and later in the Senate by Sen. Boncore.
“One thing that we do know that FY’19 will bring is $50,000 in Earmark funding thanks to our legislators at the State House,” said Antonelli. “Thank you for your dedication and tireless work to make this happen for us. This funding will allow for the further development of Crossroads’ on-site Learning Center. The Learning Center is intended to be flexible programming that will allow for families living in the shelter program to improve their English, learn important computer skills, and to ultimately further their educations by obtaining GEDs. We will partner closely with St. Mary’s Center, and look forward to rolling this out in 2019. Again, thank you Speaker, Senator, and Rep. Madaro for all of your advocacy on this.”
The breakfast and open house events were also able to raise money 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.
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.