News & Updates
Wednesday, May 15, 2024

‘No woman should ever have to sleep on the street:’ Longtime Director of St. Patrick’s, Nancy Kavanagh, Recognized for 32 Years of Service

Witnessing the joy on a woman’s face when she learns that she has found affordable housing is an experience that Nancy Kavanagh, who has served as Director of Catholic Charities’ St. Patrick’s Shelter for Women for 32 years, says she will never tire of.

“As staff, we celebrate every time a resident receives housing,” Nancy said. “That is the reward for us – knowing we have helped provide stability to someone in need and being able to witness them move forward.”

Nancy was recognized for her longtime service to the community at the Somerville Rotary Club’s event celebrating 100 Years of Service on May 14, which took place at the George Dilboy Post in Davis Square.

Nancy was one of three community members who were honored for making an impactful contribution to families and individuals at risk of food insecurity, homelessness, domestic abuse, and other life challenges.

“The women who come here need us, but we need them too,” Nancy said in her remarks. “There is something that everyone at that table and myself take away each day. We recognize the resilience, the unfailing hope and determination of these women who are in some of the worst circumstances of their lives who still have the courage to carry on each day. We carry that with us so that when things get tough in our own lives, we can take inspiration from the women we serve.”

While grateful to be recognized, Nancy says she could not do this work if it weren’t for her incredible fellow staff, who she says inspire her every day.

“Their work is not easy, but they come in every day eager to make a difference,” she said. “There is a tremendous amount of dedication here.”

With 27 emergency beds, and a 10-bed transitional program for women who have secured employment and are preparing to leave the shelter, St. Patrick’s is almost always at full capacity, with most residents being between the age of 20 and 40 years old.

Nancy said so long as the residents abide by the rules of the shelter, they are able to reserve their bed for as long as they need.

“A woman could be here for two weeks, or it could be two years,” said Nancy. “It just depends on how quickly she is able to find housing.”

From the first week that residents move in, St. Patrick’s case managers begin working with them to determine their eligibility for housing vouchers and guide them in applying for subsidized housing. Additionally, after breakfast, six days a week, the women are asked to leave the shelter between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., encouraging them to utilize community resources and explore employment opportunities.

Regardless of what they choose to do during the day, they are guaranteed a warm meal each evening and a safe place to lay their head at night.

“Our mission is keeping women safe, one night at a time,” said Nancy. “No woman should ever have to sleep on the street.”

What makes St. Patrick’s program particularly impactful, however, is that the staff continue to support residents even after they move out of the shelter.

Thanks to the state’s Rapid Re-Housing Fund, Nancy said that they are now able to provide a new couch, bed, and kitchen table to each resident who secures housing.

“I noticed the women would be so excited to get their own apartment but then when they got there, all they would have is a blow-up mattress,” Nancy said. “The furniture gives them the dignity to say, ‘I’m here. I am in my own apartment. I made it.’”

To learn how you can support residents at St. Patrick’s Shelter, and Catholic Charities Boston’s other clients in need, visit our Ways to Give page.

For more information on St. Patrick’s and Catholic Charities Boston’s shelters, click here.

Get the Latest News from CCAB