Looking Forward to the Journey’s End: 30 Years of Family Homelessness in Massachusetts

Thank you to everyone who came out to Looking Forward to the Journey’s End, an event hosted by HFF and CSP at UMass to recognize the shelter system’s 30 anniversary.  For everyone who did not get a chance to attend, please take a look at this blog post.  While we can’t completely capture the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear from two of the creators of the shelter system, families who have experienced the shelter system then, now and the time in between, professionals working at the community, legal and state policy levels, and Governor Dukakis himself!

Before blowing up this blog post with information, links, and videos, let us just take a moment to breathe, smile and be thankful that, even though the state is experiencing family homelessness at a level we have never seen before, there are truly smart/generous/empathetic/wise/experienced/humorous/powerful/[insert words that motivate you here, because its all true] people working in collaboration to end family homelessness.

We held this event not to simply recognize that the initially temporary system has become a permanent fixture, but to bring together the people who get the problem, and hold the answers. To identify what is working, and tweak what it is not.  To recognize who the key stake holders are, thank them, and find ways to bring others from the community into the work we all do.  To accept the severity and messiness of the problem, and ultimately, to reinvigorate the same sense of urgency and collaboration that catalyzed the system into existence in the first place.

The day began with an incredible performance by poet/musician/spoken word artist Peter Shungu. No, strike that, the day really began with delicious muffins, scones and coffee from Haley House…thennnnn incredible performance by Pete. After welcoming remarks from Donna Haig-Friedman, Libby Hayes, and Dean Ira Jackson of UMass Boston, we jumped right into the content of the day.

Beginning with co-creators of the shelter system, Nancy Kaufman and Phil Johnston, we heard about the intricacies of the systems creation, clearly facilitated by Donna.

Immediately after, we heard the strong stories of strong families who have experienced the system at every stage and every level– thanks to Rosa, Debbie, and Tina for their strength and wisdom and Diane for her pro-facilitator skills (informed by her strength and wisdom, of course)

After that, we heard from Ruth Bourquin, Esq, Undersecretary Gornstein, Rep. Bryron Rushing, and Sister Margaret regarding their unique efforts, insights and perspectives on this uphill battle.

As you can imagine, all of this information regarding the issues left us hungry for solutions–and lunch, which was beautifully served by iCater, an initiative of Pine Street Inn.  We are still full from their artisan sandwiches and can’t wait to eat more of them in the future.

Lunchtime was not just a time for taking in sustenance, but for putting out substance. We received some amazing feedback and are working to compile, analyze and interpret it into a document, but in the mean time we are looking for more.

Please click here to view (and fill out!) our input forms.

In collaboration with  CSP at UMass Boston, we created a pretty awesome, and needed, timeline of policies and practices that have impacted family homelessness in Massachusetts.   Click here and it is all yours!

We were also graced with the presence of Craig Blankenhorn, who is using his talents as a photographer to capture the plight of family homelessness in America.  Check out the link above to view his work, featured in the NY Times. In addition, please click here to view our slideshow game called “Guess the Year”, featuring different quotes from across the decades.   In this slideshow, you can also view those who were nominated as Agents of Change in the community for their outstanding work in preventing, addressing and ultimately ending family homelessness.

And finally, while we cannot even pretend like we can create the awesomeness that was Governor Dukakis at our event, we can put up our (very amateur) video of our initial interview with him.  But needless to say, he was awesome, hilarious, inspiring and REAL–all things we personally and professionally aspire to be at HFF.

The day ended with remarks from Hubie Jones, who gave a call for action and identified appropriate avenues of change that will help to end family homelessness in Massachusetts and across the nation.

Coming full circle, Pete Shungu closed out the day with an inspiring poem on POSSIBILITIES, a piece of work that deserves its own feature so be on the lookout for that video on our Facebook page!

Again, thank you to the families, providers, advocates, policy makers and beyond who attended, portrayed their experience and shared their insights to bring us that much closer to the Journey’s End.  We most certainly are looking forward to it.




2 thoughts on “Looking Forward to the Journey’s End: 30 Years of Family Homelessness in Massachusetts

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