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Community Focus on Homelessness

March 09, 2020

Lasell's Center for Community-Based Learning hosts a Lunch and Learn on community homelessness

Lasell University's Center for Community-Based Learning (CCBL) hosted its first Lunch and Learn speaker series this month with a kickoff program centered on homelessness. CCBL Director Dr. Nickki Dawes invited speakers from Heading Home, Family Promise MetroWest, and Citizens for Affordable Housing in Newton Development Organization (CAN-DO) to engage with the Lasell community on this issue from multiple angles. The Village Bank cosponsored the event in line with its long record of supporting community-building in the city of Newton.

Speakers from all three organizations shared their efforts in building community connections to fight homelessness. A room full of Lasell Village residents and Lasell University students, faculty, staff learned about issues in a "right to shelter" state. This means that Massachusetts residents with children cannot by law be left outside, so the Commonwealth must make sure they sleep under a roof. The policy is effective, but it also makes homelessness out of sight and out of mind for the general population.  

Carole Brodrick, director of development at Family Promise MetroWest, said that Massachusetts is the third most expensive state to live in, with 1 out of 13 children facing homelessness or instability.  

To that, Carli Baldwin, a volunteer and events specialist at Heading Home, adds that family homelessness is fast-growing, with the average age of homeless people at just 8 years old. Baldwin focused her portion of the event on unconscious bias, and the realities that perceptions of homelessness create.  

"These statistics are jarring and difficult to grasp with the 'right to shelter' policy in place, because it makes homelessness invisible," she said. "Shame, fear, and guilt restrict folks from reaching out for help."  

Josephine McNeil, former Executive Director of CAN-DO, shared her organization's way of maintaining a realistic perspective.  

"One third of our board must be mid- to low-income individuals," she says. "We refuse to neglect the perspectives of those that are actually affected by low wages. It's a values question -- if people come to us for affordable housing, we need to help them."  

All three organizations are focused on building local partnerships to help combat homelessness while working together to make change in the world. 

Photo taken by Rebecca LeBlanc '20