‘An opportunity for a better future:’ Families Living at CCI Share a Glimpse of their Journey
When asked to share her story, Philomise, a resident at the Catholic Charities Inn (CCI), hesitates for a moment, unsure where to begin.
She did not expect to find herself here, sitting in the office of an emergency shelter in Boston, the desk before her littered with documents and applications for permanent housing.
A devoted mother of three, however, Philomise will do anything for her children.
“I want my kids to receive a good education,” she says. “I want them to live in a comfortable home.”
Committed to providing their family with a better life, Philomise and her husband led their three children, ages 19, 10, and two, from Haiti to the U.S. largely by foot, a harrowing journey that required great faith and courage. Still, Philomise said they are grateful to be in Boston, now living at the shelter, with a roof over their heads.
Since the family moved in, in July, CCI staff have been in the process of enrolling the children in childcare and in school and have assisted Philomise and her husband with the process of seeking both work permits and affordable housing.
Philomise said the process of waiting for opportunities has been challenging, but she is unwilling to give up.
“We just have to have patience,” she said.
Kathia, Philomise’s housing case manager at CCI, knows firsthand what it feels like to not know what the future holds. Having immigrated from Guatemala with her family as a child, Kathia said she remembers distinctly how disorienting it was to arrive in a new place and not know where you belonged.
“We were homeless twice,” she said. “I didn’t speak a lick of English at that time. I remember I felt like an odd ball.”
Kathia’s experiences immigrating to the U.S. and living in a family shelter now allow her to more deeply connect with every client she works with. Above all, she is committed to helping the CCI residents become self-sufficient through educating them on the complicated process of finding housing and stable employment as a newcomer in the U.S.
“I believe knowledge is power,” she said. “I want them to feel empowered to advocate for themselves.”
Despite the obstacles many CCI residents are currently facing – from language barriers to the state-wide housing shortage to the often-long process of waiting for a work permit – Kathia said the families she works with remain hopeful for a better life.
“We are in a great country, so if we know what we are doing, if we learn good things, we have a big opportunity to a better future,” said Celestin, who migrated from Brazil with his wife and three-year-old daughter.
For many, like Wilkenson, a resident who also travelled from Haiti with his wife and two daughters, ages three and two, faith is a guiding light.
“We are just hoping and praying to God that we will be able to grow here,” he said.
*In respect of the sensitivity of real-life experiences shared within the story clients are referred to by their first or middle names only to protect their privacy.
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