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With The Home’s guidance, a young man turns obstacles into opportunity
For most young people, 18 is a special birthday, a milestone into adulthood that brings privileges and freedom. For Luis, turning 18 was the worst thing that ever happened to him...
Life had never been easy for Luis. When he was nine, he and his younger brother were removed from their mother’s home due to neglect. Custody was given to his father and grandmother, but before too long the boys were once again removed by the Department of Children and Families. They spent the next couple of years being bounced between separate foster homes.
Luis was 12 when he came to live at our Roxbury House Group Home. For the first time ever, he was living in a stable environment. He began to trust the staff, realizing that even when he made mistakes, they were there to give him what he needed, whether it was consequences, a nurturing conversation, or even just a consistent presence. For the next six years, the program was his safety net, the closest thing he had to a family and a home.
Then Luis turned 18, which meant he had “aged out” of the state system of care and was too old to continue living at Roxbury House. He wasn’t ready to be on his own; he had nowhere to go, no roadmap for his future. Luis survived by living off of odd jobs and sleeping on friends' couches. "When you're 18 and trying to figure out where to eat and sleep at night, it's really tough," said Luis. "I needed to get out of the tornado I was living in."
Luis began frequently returning to Roxbury House for guidance. He wasn't sure how to obtain the resources he needed to navigate adulthood, but knew he could seek help from Program Director Lavette Pitts, who was like a mother to him. Although Luis was no longer part of the program, the staff gave him the support he needed to get his life on track, helping him to enroll in a G.E.D. program, and teaching him basic life skills like how to shop for necessities and obtain a Mass Health Card.
Today, Luis, now 20 years old, is working part time as a Direct Care Counselor at Roxbury House, spending the summer as an intern for The Home’s Executive Offices, and getting ready to enter his first year at Bunker Hill Community College. He also just moved into an apartment at The Home’s newest program, Roxbury Village, giving him a place to call home and the stability he needs to focus on his job and school. This young man, who once dreaded life on his own, is now able to look forward to his future.
Luis' story is the inspiration behind Roxbury Village.
In July, The Home celebrated the opening of its newest program, Roxbury Village, which provides housing to young adults (ages 18-22) in Boston who are homeless or about to be discharged from state systems of care and are at risk of being homeless. Thanks to this innovative program, nine young people now have a roof over their heads and a stable environment in which to grow and thrive.
In addition to housing, Roxbury Village offers intensive services to help these youth build the resources and skills they need to become self-sufficient, productive adults. Many have never been adopted or reunited with their biological families and very few are ready to live on their own, having spent much of their lives in state programs, bouncing around from different homes and school systems. Roxbury Village gives them a chance to make a fresh start and we hope it will serve as a model for other organizations to help the nearly 600 youth who age out of state care each year.
It took a village to make this project a reality and The Home is extremely grateful to everyone involved. Contributions included financing, grant funding, in-kind donations, publicity and property development. See a full list of supporters or more photos.
The Home for Little Wanderers name isn’t going anywhere, but we will soon have a new look.
This September, we will be launching a new brand, including a different logo, tagline and messaging. All of our communications and website will be updated to reflect the changes. We are excited to show you the results of this year-long project with branding experts Corey McPherson Nash. We believe it better represents The Home as a leader for providing child and family services in Massachusetts.
Celebrating ten years as a safe haven for GLBT youth
A decade ago this October, The Home began a very unique program — one that furthered our mission of ensuring the healthy development of all children without regard to race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Waltham House, a residential group home for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) youth, was the first such program in New England and only the third in the nation, rankings it still holds.
The Home recognized a dire need to provide a safe, supportive environment for this underserved population of youth, a need that still exists today. Often experiencing rejection from parents, peers and society, many GLBT youth are forced to move out or run away from home, sometimes engaging in risky behavior just to find a place to sleep. The national statistics are staggering, with more than 34% of GLBT youth attempting suicide in the past year and an estimated 500,000 facing homelessness.
Waltham House not only acts as a safe haven for these young people, but also provides life skills training, counseling and health care services. The program prepares them for the next chapter in their lives, whether it’s reuniting with their family or navigating life on their own. One positive change since the program first opened is an increase in the involvement level of families and other lifelong connections. Staff members work with the youth and their families, acting as a bridge to help rebuild relationships or connect the youth to mentors.
Over the past decade, Waltham House has succeeded in helping at-risk GLBT youth stay safe and lead healthy, productive lives. Many of the residents have been able to keep up their grades, hold part-time jobs, graduate from high school, and attend college. On this milestone anniversary, we celebrate the work of Waltham House and the role it has played in giving these youth the caring, supportive environment every child deserves.
A special celebration to mark the 10th anniversary is being planned as part of the third annual Waltham House Casino Night. For more details, check out our Events page.
Many of us can remember how we spent our summer breaks: family vacations, camps, and countless other adventures. Unfortunately, many children at The Home do not have memories of such carefree summers. Each child we serve needs and deserves a chance to have a little fun in the summertime and it is you — our generous donors — who help make that possible through your support.
Your donations allow us to provide enriching and enjoyable activities, those “extras” that are not covered by the contractual funding The Home receives from the State. There have been lots of field trips, from aquariums to animal farms. Kids have had the chance to cool off at the beach, swimming pools and water parks. Some children have had the rare opportunity to explore a new activity, including golf, surfing, and horseback riding. And extra special excursions have formed memories that will last a lifetime: games at Fenway Park, a Cirque du Soleil show, whitewater rafting, and a trip to Ogunquit, Maine.
Your generosity also supports educational and vocational activities for our older youth. A summer favorite at our year-round therapeutic residential-special education programs is the Project Adventure Course — including belaying, climbing and team-oriented activities, which help to build trust and self-esteem. At the Southeast Campus, the boys have developed their own woodworking business where once a month the students sell bird houses, cutting boards, bat houses, tables and special order items at the Farmer’s Market at Plimoth Plantation. It’s been a great venture into the world of commerce!
Thank you for helping to make the summer what it should be for our kids — fun!
The library at our Harrington House Group Home was painted, decorated and redesigned this summer thanks to the hard work and generosity of staff from Deloitte. The energetic employees, volunteering as part of the company’s annual community commitment IMPACT Day, also improved both internal and external spaces at our Waltham House, Southeast Campus and STARR programs — laying paving stones, planting flowers, mulching, cleaning and painting.
The Mandarin Oriental Boston helped to make the final graduation ceremony one to remember for our soon-to-be-sold Knight Children's Center in Jamaica Plain. Through the company’s Fantastic Match program, volunteers transformed the gym for the event. During the past two years, The Mandarin has also displayed artwork by some of our young artists at its Boylston Street location and supported The Home in other ways.