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Thursday, March 16, 2023

“It’s More Than I Could Have Ever Asked For:” With Nazareth’s Support, Former Shelter Client Secures Housing for Herself and Young Daughter

Marissa* has always been the type of person who people naturally turn to for support.

“I’ll be at a bus stop and a stranger will walk by. I usually say “Hello, how are you doing?” and next thing I know they are telling me their life story,” said Marissa. “There’s something that makes people feel like they can trust me.”

At 32, Marissa understands more than ever the importance of having a trustworthy support system. When she and her four-year old daughter Heaven fell on hard times and lost stable housing, Marissa said they had no choice but to live with her mother in a cramped apartment that was not suitable for the three of them long-term.

Beyond being a small space, the apartment contained allergens that posed major risks to Marissa’s health. “I’ve been in and out of the hospital my entire life because of severe asthma,” she said. “It makes keeping a job and finding housing very difficult.”

Desperate for assistance, Marissa and Heaven moved into Catholic Charities Nazareth Family Shelter in November 2021.

What stood out to her most during her experience was the kind-hearted staff members Marissa met along the way, who she said helped her to recognize and harness her own resilience.

“One of Nazareth’s case managers Sebastien Joseph was on the morning staff and whenever I was having a bad day or going through a rough time, we would have these heart-to-hearts,” she said. “He would look at me and he would truly listen. Joan Henderson, who worked on the overnight staff, was always willing to listen and give me advice too. It always made my day.”

Urgessa Tura, a Housing Case Manager at Nazareth, was another one of the committed staff helping Marissa figure out her next steps and secure stable housing.

“We had weekly meetings where we sat down and put pen to paper, trying to figure out what actions I was going to take that week to move me forward. It was always a team effort with him. If there were any problems, he did his best to find another strategy. We had our own little team,” she said.

Although the process of securing affordable housing was not easy, their persistent efforts paid off. On February 1, Marissa and Heaven moved out of Nazareth and into their own spacious two-bedroom apartment in Boston.

Marissa and Heaven will remain a part of the shelter’s stabilization program, which supports clients in maintaining housing by continuing to provide them with support and vital resources.

Marissa said the overwhelm of trying to find stable housing was often amplified by her mounting concerns over Heaven, who was diagnosed with some cognitive delays early in life that have made it difficult for her to communicate her emotions and needs.

Upon learning this, Nazareth’s case manager, Ruby Brown, immediately helped Marissa contact Heaven’s school to ensure she had the necessary support.

“I had already been researching Boston Public Schools for a while trying to find accommodations for Heaven, but Ruby immediately gave me the exact steps I needed to take to help Heaven get an IEP. With her support, I submitted a long, detailed request for an IEP through the school’s website and I got a response the next day.”

With the support of an IEP program in school, as well as the excitement of a new and stable place to call home, Marissa said Heaven is showing more growth than ever.

“Heaven is doing well. She is really enjoying having a bedroom to herself. She has all her toys set up and her own T.V. I love to see her developing some independence.”

Marissa will be attending Suffolk University in the fall on scholarship, where she plans to major in psychology with a minor in criminal justice. Determined to academically excel during her first two semesters, she hopes to be accepted into Suffolk’s Bachelor’s-to-master’s program later this year, accelerating her long-term goal of one day working as a forensic scientist.

“Having this apartment to call our own is something I can’t even begin to describe,” she said. “It’s more than I ever could have asked for.”

*Due to the sensitive nature of the real-life experiences shared within the story clients are referred to by their first or middle names only to protect privacy.

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