Every parent has big dreams for their children. A great education, good, reliable friends, a future filled with opportunity — the least of their worries should be having a stable roof over their heads. Sadly, the yearly reality for more than 20,000 Massachusetts school children is some level of homelessness. This could mean living in a shelter, in the car, or bouncing from place to place with no stability to speak of. The uncertainty of where they’ll sleep at night bleeds into a child’s day, and learning can take a back seat to other, more personal stressors.
For Maria King and her daughter Zariah, homelessness wasn’t an immediate concern. They were living with Maria’s mother in Boston, and Zariah was doing well in school. Mariah’s work in healthcare helped pay the sometimes exorbitant Boston-living bills. There were occasional disagreements, even fights, between Maria and her mother, but it was nothing they couldn’t work out.
How Homelessness Can Become a Reality Overnight
That is, until one night when an argument escalated out of control and Maria’s mother assaulted her own daughter as Zariah looked on. Maria knew she couldn’t stay in that house anymore. Maria and Zariah soon moved in with Maria’s aunt in the hopes it would be a temporary shift while Maria found her feet again.
She visited the Department of Transitional Assistance in Boston, which eventually placed her in a shelter in Revere. Far from the Boston she and her daughter knew and stuck behind the great Boston housing market wall, Maria wasn’t sure where to turn. It was Zariah who would help find a way out.
Zariah sought out her school’s director of special education and explained that she and her mother were homeless. In response, the school reached out to Maria to confirm Zariah’s claims and offer whatever assistance they could. They connected Maria with Project Hope, a United Way partner agency, so she and her daughter wouldn’t be facing their struggles alone.
How a little hope goes a long way
Project Hope had Maria and Zariah out of Revere and back in Boston within two weeks, and their Family Shelter provided them with everything they could need to get back on the road toward stability. They had a private room with a shared common living and cooking space, access to important housing and career counseling assistance, all within easy reach of Zariah’s school.
Maria worked alongside Paulette, one of Project Hope’s Family Partners, and put in the time and effort to get her life back in order. With Paulette’s help, Maria crafted a strong resume. Through Project Hope’s community connections, she found a job as a certified nurse’s assistant at a local agency. Then, after just eight months, she and Zariah found themselves in a stable apartment, where they still live today.
United Way is Dedicated to Ending Homelessness
Stories like Maria’s are why United Way deploys resources to support a network of partners like Project Hope, which provide long term support to families experiencing homelessness. Their situation is often called a “hidden crisis.” While families in Massachusetts rarely sleep on the streets in visible locations, thousands of children face uncertainty about where they will live night-to-night as parents struggle to afford a stable apartment in such an expensive housing market. Children without stable housing are twice as likely to repeat a grade, four times as likely to develop asthma and other health issues, and are at 52 percent higher risk for developmental delays. This year, we will help 10,000 families who are either homeless or facing homelessness find stable, safe housing.