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Media Coverage

St. Mary’s Center snags $100k for new Rec Center

By Elana Aurise, Reporter Staff

Jun. 15, 2016

St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children has secured a $100,000 grant to build a new recreation center at their Jones Hill campus. The gift is one of 100 grants given out by the Cummings Foundation, a Woburn-based philanthropy.

St. Mary’s Center stands out for its seven programs that are built on education, employment, preventative, and residential programs. Each year, more than 600 underserved families and children who may have experienced domestic abuse, trauma, poverty or homelessness receive the help and resources needed to build a brighter future for St. Mary’s.

The recreation center will provide the staff and families a public space to have meetings and celebrations, and most importantly, will allow the children they serve to experience a big open space to run around and play.

The Cummings Foundation made the grant as part of their “$100K for 100” program —including Earthern Vessels, Inc., an academic mentoring organization based in Dorchester and the Neighborhood House Charter School. To view all the grant recipients, visit cummingsfoundation.org.

See more: http://www.dotnews.com/2016/st-mary-s-center-snags-100k-new-rec-center


NO DAYS OFF FOR THIS DETERMINED, DEVOTED MOTHER

cullen

 

By GLOBE COLUMNIST 

 

Domingas Dos Santos, former resident, St. Marys Center, single-mother
Domingas Dos Santos is “the epitome of persistence,’’ one of her teachers said. Photo credit: KEVIN CULLEN/GLOBE STAFF

Every weekday, the alarm goes off at 5 a.m., and Domingas Dos Santos rolls over. Sometimes she would like to ignore it, but that’s not an option.

She taps the alarm, gets up, and gets herself ready. Then she makes breakfast for her three boys: Victor, 10, Diego, 8, and Christian, the baby, who is 4.

“With Christian, it’s eggs,” she says. “Every day, scrambled eggs. Christian’s got to have his eggs.”

They are out the door by 6:45, Domingas Dos Santos and her boys. They get on the 28 bus at Talbot Avenue and after heading up Blue Hill Avenue they get off at the Franklin Park Zoo. Then they take the 16 bus down Columbia Road and she drops her sons off at St. John Paul II Catholic Academy.

Once her sons are in school, Domingas Dos Santos goes to school. Sometimes she takes another bus, but more often she’ll walk, back up Columbia Road, through Uphams Corner, hanging a left on Hancock Street, then up Bowdoin Street.

Halfway down Bowdoin, she walks into the building that houses College Bound Dorchester and gets to work, a 30-year-old high school student going places.

Five years ago, Domingas Dos Santos arrived in Boston from Cape Verde with her husband, who has a large extended family here. She didn’t speak English, which became a big problem when she and her husband split up. Just as suddenly, she was homeless, with three kids.

She ended up at the St. Mary’s shelter for women and children on top of Jones Hill in Dorchester.

“The people there were very kind to my sons,” she said. “No one wants to live in a shelter, but my kids loved it there because people loved them.”

People at St. Mary’s told her about College Bound Dorchester and she began taking English classes.

Ashley Hannah, one of her teachers, noticed something immediately.

“I think all the teachers here looked at her and said, ‘This is the one.’ She stood out,” said Hannah. “She is the epitome of persistence. She looks at obstacles and figures out how to overcome them. She’s such a strong woman, an amazing mom. She’s not just an inspiration to other students, but to me.”

On those days when Ashley Hannah, working mom, is struggling with her toddler, she thinks about Domingas Dos Santos and suddenly things are in perspective.

It takes most people about seven years to master academic English, but Domingas Dos Santos did it in four. She is on course to pass her high school equivalency test by the end of the month. She hopes to acquire citizenship by the end of the year.

‘She is the epitome of persistence. She looks at obstacles and figures out how to overcome them.’

– Ashley Hannah, Domingas Dos Santos’ teacher at College Bound Dorchester

When she finishes her schoolwork, Domingas Dos Santos takes a couple more buses to her job as a cashier at the Home Depot in South Bay.

“They gave me some award,” she said the other day, sitting in the Panera across from Home Depot. “They said I was a good employee . . . I smile at all the customers and I’m nice to everybody. I don’t think that’s hard.”

It was harder a couple of years ago, when Victor and Diego were at different public schools, on different schedules. Juggling the kids and school, both hers and theirs, is still a constant struggle. Some people dream of things and she dreams of saving up enough to buy a car.

“My ex-husband’s family has been good,” she says. “They’ve helped with the kids. But a car would make things a lot easier. That’s my goal for the next year.”

She used to read to her boys at home, in part to improve her English.

“But then my kids kept making fun of my accent and laughing . . . so now I have them read books to me instead,” she said. “Diego is a great student. Victor says his belly hurts when I ask him to read a book. Diego, I don’t have to tell him to do his homework. He just does it. Victor, I have to tell him, but he does it.”

The boys are in bed by 8 p.m.

In her quiet time, Domingas Dos Santos sometimes second-guesses herself.

“I tell my boys, ‘Don’t be like me. I’m 30 years old and I’m still in high school.’ And they say, ‘But mommy, you’re a good mom.’ And I say, ‘Yeah, but I should have finished college by now.’ ”

After she gets her high school equivalency, she will begin College Bound Dorchester’s bridge program to prepare for college. She wants to be a teacher. She is her boys’ teacher.

“I tell them a little about life every day,” she says. “I tell them there are two ways to go in life: a good way and a bad way. Education will bring them the good way, and they have to make good choices. I think I’m going to bring them to school until they graduate. Their grandmother says, ‘Give them a break, let them go to the park by themselves.’ But I say no, I’m going to bring them.’ ’’

Trying to figure out that balance, of being protective and letting her boys become more independent, is harder to master than English grammar.

“I’ve been lucky,” she says. “I’ve met good people who were good to me, good to my kids. I pray a lot. I pray for my kids. For myself.”

She prays at St. Patrick’s Church in Roxbury, too, and that’s where she’ll be on Mother’s Day, enjoying food and friends, watching her boys play.

For Domingas Dos Santos, every day is Mother’s Day. From the moment the alarm goes off at 5 a.m., until she closes her eyes at night and drifts toward what little rest she gets.

“I live for my kids,” she says, nodding, looking out at a parking lot in Dorchester, never so sure of anything she’s said in her life. “Everything I do, it’s for them. My kids come first. I come second. Because I’m a mom.”

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter@GlobeCullen.

See more: https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2016/05/07/days-off-for-determined-devoted-mother/KyUXl6RQZtI4pU79BlKlWM/story.html


 

Impact of Homelessness

Homelessness, Mental Health, and Recovery

Boston City Council

Published on Apr 14, 2016

Hearing regarding the impact of homelessness on children, young adults, and families in Boston (Off-Site held at St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children, 90 Cushing Ave, Dorchester)
Docket # 0269 – A hearing regarding the impacts of homelessness, on children, young adults and families in Boston.


Struggles of homeless aired at Jones Hill hearingdotbannersmall

By Maddie Kilgannon, Special to the Reporter

Apr. 14, 2016

p7 homeless hearing REP 15-16
Sabrina, who lives at the St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children, testified during a Tuesday evening hearing on homelessness that was held at the Jones Hill facility. At right are Boston City Councillors Andrea Campbell, Frank Baker, and Annissa Essaibi-George.

City Councillor At-Large Annissa Essaibi-George and four of her colleagues heard emotional testimony on Jones Hill Tuesday evening at the second hearing of the new Committee on Homelessness, Mental Health, and Recovery at St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children on Cushing Avenue.

“When I was teaching, I had students that were homeless,” said committee chair Essaibi-George, who was a Boston public schools teacher before being elected to the Council last fall. “I didn’t realize the magnitude of the issue, particularly of family homelessness.”

Essaibi-George held her first committee hearing on homelessness last month at which Councillors were told that there are more than 3,000 homeless students in the public schools and 990 homeless families in the Boston area.

“When I realized the sheer numbers of family homelessness in Boston, it caught me by surprise,
Councillors Andrea Campbell, Frank Baker, Matt O’Malley, and Tito Jackson joined Essaibi-George at the neighborhood hearing. Most Council hearings are held in City Hall, which Councillors say, creates a barrier for some who would like to share their stories. “I am a firm believer that you have to get out into the communities to have a meaningful impact,” Campbell said.

St. Mary’s, where the hearing took place, provides shelter for families, alongside seven distinct emotional, educational, and economic programs for women and children.

“I think St. Mary’s does its best for the population that needs it the most,” said Baker.

According to Deirdre Houtmeyers, who has served as the President of St. Mary’s for two and a half years, roughly 200 woman and children live at either St. Mary’s in Dorchester or Crossroads in East Boston, which is under St. Mary’s purview.

“I decided to testify because I love this place,” said Yanira, the first at the hearing to share her story. The 21-year-old became overcome with emotion, but continued, “not only because I live here.”

St. Mary’s is the third shelter in which Yanira and her 6-year-old daughter have lived. She described her experience there as being the best situation for herself and her daughter, compared to the other shelters.

As part of St. Mary’s Women@Work Plus program, Yanira works at Corcoran Management in Brighton, where she said she is developing her skills and professional experience. Every day, she said, she works towards her goal of someday having a home of her own.

Another woman, Sabrina, then stood up at the microphone and held her young son Trey as she shared her story. She described her situation as one intrinsically “set up for failure.”

A shelter helped Sabrina find housing as a young mother, she said. But, “Instead of giving me the proper steps I needed, I was pushed out by the system before I was ready.” Sabrina explained, in tears, that within a year she found herself no longer able to pay rent. She was ultimately separated from her children and was soon back in a shelter.

Sabrina now lives at Crossroads, where she has been able to reunite with all four of her children. “I’m getting my life back together,” she said. “I’m so grateful for where I’m at.”

“I am so happy that Crossroads has programs for young mothers. We need so much more than just a push out the door,” she said.

Tara, who has lived at St. Mary’s for over a year, was one of the last to testify. In the past six months, she lost both her mother and the father of her young son. “And now I am kind of alone,” she said.

She is part of the Strive Program in Codman Square and now feels that she is on a solid path forward. Tara plans to take classes at Bunker Hill Community College this summer, studying political science and history. Ultimately, she said, “I want to come back and help.”

Yanira, Sabrina, and Tara shared a similar sentiment — that St. Mary’s provided and protected a sense of family and home.

Councillor Essaibi-George concluded the meeting by remarking on the “beautiful hopes for the future” that filled the room.

Essaibi-George said after the meeting that she wants to move forward with the conversation, now with an eye toward solutions.

“I would like to do a working session with all the shelters to have a conversation where we can start identifying some of the quicker answers to the bigger problems of homelessness that were addressed tonight,” she said.

Link: http://www.dotnews.com/2016/struggles-homeless-aired-jones-hill-hearing


Groundbreaking For Women And Children’s Transitional Housing

6/18/15

DMS design, llc of Beverly designs supportive housing project for women and children in Dorchester, MA

On Tuesday, June 16, 2015, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Cardinal Sean O’Malley attended the groundbreaking of a supportive housing project in Dorchester, MA. The center, located on the campus of St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children, will create twelve units of transitional housing. DMS design, llc of Beverly is the architect and NEI General Contracting of Randolph is the general contractor. Funding was provided by the Massachusetts Maternity and Foundling Hospital, the City of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
– See more at: http://boston.citybizlist.com/article/277284/groundbreaking-for-women-and-childrens-transitional-housing#sthash.tzrXnuRS.dpuf


Legislators push for local line items in final state budget

Dorchester Reporter

By Lauren Dezenski
Jul. 16, 2015

As Gov. Charlie Baker pores over the state budget submitted by the Legislature last week, local elected officials are working hard to ensure line items that have thus far escaped a red pen make it into the final version signed into law.

Lawmakers approved a $38.1 billion budget last Wednesday by votes of 153-1 in the House and 31-5 in the Senate. The governor now has until the end of this week to work through its details before signing it and announcing vetoes and amendments to line items.

In Dorchester, those line items–should they survive–could secure or increase funding for both neighborhood-specific causes and statewide issues.

“I’m hoping that it’s not a fight. I talked with Charlie yesterday and he said he’s spending this entire week going line-by-line on the budget,” said State Rep. Russell Holmes on Tuesday. “I’ve reinforced the line items important to the Black and Latino caucus.”

In his district, Holmes said he is hopeful $150,000 slated for Bottom Line, a college guidance program helpful to students in Dorchester and Roxbury, will survive.

“They’ve never gotten any public funding before,” he added.

State Rep. Evandro Carvalho said he was happy to see more money potentially go into the state’s youth jobs fund called Youth Works. An additional $1.5 million would bump up the program’s funding to $11.7 million for the coming year. He also hailed $250,000 for the state’s witness protection program; $3.02 million for School-to-Career Connecting Activities that supports the development of private-sector youth jobs placements and career specialists in Boston Public Schools through the Boston Private Industry Council, and an increase of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which could increase the maximum credit from $951 to $1,459 per family, he said.

“For too many families in our state, a few hundred dollars can be the difference between drowning and staying afloat financially,” said State Rep. Dan Cullinane. “I know this will make a real difference for a lot of families in my district.” Cullinane said raising the tax credit will assist 415,000 families statewide.

The state budget includes $11.7 million for year-round employment of at-risk youth. Of that, $200,000 has been carved out for a grant at St. Mary’s Center for the Women at Work program in Dorchester–fought for in both branches by State Rep. Dan Hunt and State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry.

“The work that St. Mary’s does is God’s work and is something that needs our help,” Hunt said.

St. Mary’s 22-week job readiness training program addresses the vocational needs of women who face multiple barriers to employment, including homelessness, lack of a GED or high school diploma, history of substance abuse or domestic violence, and difficulty obtaining or retaining employment, according to the program’s website.

“We have to continue to fight for our priorities for the budget,” Hunt said.

Two other priorities for Dorcena Forry: $150,000 for the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute and another $150,000 for the Massachusetts Iraq and Afghanistan Fallen Heroes Memorial, which would pay tribute to Massachusetts veterans killed after Sept. 11, 2001.

Another roughly $90 million of the state budget is slated for substance abuse prevention and treatment statewide, including $250,000 for the Gavin Foundation of South Boston.

State Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz hails the creation of an income-eligible wait list, which for $12 million would take 2,000 kids off the income-eligible preschool waitlist and place them into early education programs. Another $1.7 million will fund the Food Innovation Trust Fund, meant to support healthy and available food options in under-served areas.

One key issue for many in Dorchester has already been cut in the budget process: Cracking down on billboards. Hunt’s previous legislation did not make it onto the version on the governor’s desk, but it also does not include provisions the administration pushed for on MassDOT advertising, Hunt said, making it a moot point. “When and if we do a transportation bill, I’ve already had conversations with the speaker to file that stuff again,” he added.

(For direct coverage click here).


Jordan Knight lends a hand for center’s gala

Tito Jackson (left) and Jordan Knight at The Estate on Saturday / KAYANA SZYMCZAK FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE
Tito Jackson (left) and Jordan Knight at The Estate on Saturday / KAYANA SZYMCZAK FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

 

By Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff
February 09, 2015

New Kid on the Block Jordan Knight was the VIP guest at St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children’s fifth annual Dancing for Hope gala on Saturday night. The evening, held at The Estate, raised money for the Dorchester agency, which provides residential, education, and employment programs for young families affected by homelessness, poverty, and trauma. Other guests at the party included Councilor Tito Jackson and center president Deirdre Houtmeyers. The night’s entertainment included a performance by the New England Patriots Cheerleaders.

(Click here for direct article.)


 

St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children Announces New Leadership

Judy Beckler Concludes Seventeen Year Tenure, Deirdre Houtmeyers Named President

July 1, 2013 (Dorchester, MA) – St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children today announced a change in leadership, with the retirement of Judy Beckler, the social service agency’s president of 17 years.  Deirdre Houtmeyers, Executive Director and Patient Care Director of St. Elizabeth’s Comprehensive Addictions Program (SECAP) at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center Boston, has been named President of the Dorchester-based non-profit, effective September, 2013.  Beckler, who advised members of the St. Mary’s board of trustees of her retirement plans in the fall of 2012, will remain at St. Mary’s through September to assist with the transition.

Houtmeyers comes to St. Mary’s following a 33-year tenure at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center Boston, where she serves as Executive Director and Patient Care Director of its Comprehensive Addictions Program. There, she leads a large, diverse, multi-disciplined staff providing inpatient, outpatient, day treatment, diversion and after-care programs to youth, adults and families with significant substance abuse and mental health problems.  Houtmeyers brings extensive experience in risk management, program development, quality improvement and contract and fiscal management to her leadership role at St. Mary’s.

Katherine Hesse, chair of St. Mary’s board of trustees, believes that Houtmeyers’ clinical knowledge, profound commitment to social justice and advocacy and understanding of the unique challenges facing women and children will serve her well as President of the Center. “Deidre’s breadth of experience, energy, enthusiasm and dedication to results-oriented, quality programs ensures that St. Mary’s will remain well positioned as it celebrates 20 years of service to the community.  We are delighted to welcome Deirdre to the St. Mary’s family at such a pivotal time in our history,” said Hesse.

As President of St. Mary’s since 1993, Beckler has played a vital role in developing the Center’s integrated services which are designed to help at-risk women and their children living in poverty change their lives through academic and emotional support and job training.  During Beckler’s tenure, St. Mary’s programs and services have helped guide thousands of women to economic self-sufficiency. “Today, as a result of Judy’s creativity and commitment, St. Mary’s is one of the city’s most vibrant and vital multi-service centers, providing a comprehensive package of counseling, education, employment, housing and after-care programs for more than 600 women and children, annually,” said Hesse.

According to Hesse, during her tenure at St. Mary’s, Beckler has worked tirelessly, with compassion and commitment, to help women break the cycle of poverty, abuse and homelessness.  “Judy has developed ground-breaking, innovative programs, mentored staff and guided St. Mary’s with a strong sense of purpose,” said Hesse.  “Judy’s contributions to St. Mary’s, and to the field of social service, will be felt for years to come.  She leaves St. Mary’s Center well-positioned for its next era of achievement.”

 


St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children Appoints New President

cbca69c69c4d4444ee6635513b0f5223
Deirdre Houtmeyers

July 9, 2013 — St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children, an anit-poverty agency based in the Dorchester section of Boston, announced that it has named Deirdre Houtmeyers, as its new president, succeeding Judy Beckler, who served in the post for 17 years.

Houtmeyers, executive director and patient care director of St. Elizabeth Comprehensive Addictions Program (SECAP) at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center Boston, will assume her new responsibilities in September. Beckler, who advised members of the St. Mary’s board of trustees of her retirement plans in the fall of 2012, will remain at St. Mary’s through September to assist with the transition.

Katherine Hesse, board chair of St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children, said Houtmeyers’ clinical knowledge, profound commitment to social justice and advocacy, and understanding of the unique challenges facing women and children will serve her well as president of the Center.

“Deidre’s breadth of experience, energy, enthusiasm and dedication to results-oriented, quality programs ensures that St. Mary’s will remain well positioned as it celebrates 20 years of service to the community. We are delighted to welcome Deirdre to the St. Mary’s family at such a pivotal time in our history,” said Hesse.

During her 33 years at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center Boston, Houtmeyers has led a large, diverse, multi-disciplined staff providing inpatient, outpatient, day treatment, diversion, and after-care programs to youth, adults and families with significant substance abuse and mental health problems.

Houtmeyers also brings extensive experience in risk management, program development, quality improvement, and contract and fiscal management to her leadership role at St. Mary’s.

During her tenure, Beckler played a key role developing the Center’s integrated services which are designed to help at-risk women and their children living in poverty change their lives through academic and emotional support and job training.

“Today, as a result of Judy’s creativity and commitment, St. Mary’s is one of the city’s most vibrant and vital multi-service centers, providing a comprehensive package of counseling, education, employment, housing, and after-care programs for more than 600 women and children, annually,” said Hesse.

She added, “Judy’s contributions to St. Mary’s, and to the field of social service, will be felt for years to come. She leaves St. Mary’s Center well-positioned for its next era of achievement.”

St. Mary’s supports more than 600 women and children annually, with residential, clinical and educational and employment services, housing search to assist families in securing affordable, permanent housing. A 120,000-square-foot facility, St. Mary’s re-developed the former St. Margaret’s Hospital in 1993 when the hospital services moved to St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center.

(For direct coverage click here.)


New president chosen to lead St. Mary’s Center

By Reporter Staff
Dorchester Reporter
Jul. 3, 2013

cbca69c69c4d4444ee6635513b0f5223The longtime president of St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children on Jones Hill will retire this year. Judy Beckler will be succeeded by Deirdre Houtmeyers, who has worked as a manager at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton for 33 years.

Beckler’s 17-year tenure at St. Mary’s has been a time of sustained growth and success for the non-profit, according to Katherine Hesse, chair of St. Mary’s board of trustees.

“Today, as a result of Judy’s creativity and commitment, St. Mary’s is one of the city’s most vibrant and vital multi-service centers, providing a comprehensive package of counseling, education, employment, housing and after-care programs for more than 600 women and children, annually,” said Hesse.
During Beckler’s tenure, St. Mary’s programs and services have helped guide thousands of women to economic self-sufficiency, Hesse said.

“Judy has developed ground-breaking, innovative programs, mentored staff and guided St. Mary’s with a strong sense of purpose,” said Hesse. “Judy’s contributions to St. Mary’s, and to the field of social service, will be felt for years to come. She leaves St. Mary’s Center well-positioned for its next era of achievement.”

Houtmeyers is presently the Patient Care Director of St. Elizabeth’s Comprehensive Addictions Program (SECAP). Her position at St. Mary’s begins in September. Beckler will remain at St. Mary’s through September to assist with the transition. Hesse said that Houtmeyers brings “extensive experience in risk management, program development, quality improvement and contract and fiscal management” to the leadership role.

“Deidre’s breadth of experience, energy, enthusiasm and dedication to results-oriented, quality programs ensures that St. Mary’s will remain well positioned as it celebrates 20 years of service to the community. We are delighted to welcome Deirdre to the St. Mary’s family at such a pivotal time in our history,” said Hesse.

Located in the former St. Margaret’s Hospital complex, St. Mary’s supports more than 600 women and children annually, with residential, clinical and educational and employment services, housing search to assist families in securing affordable, permanent housing. St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children is a social justice ministry of the Archdiocese of Boston, but is an independent 501(c)3 charitable non-profit organization governed by a 21-member Board of Trustees.

(For direct article please click here.)


Air waves

They learn radio production, communication, and interviewing skills while on-air.

By Scott Helman

GLOBE STAFF 
BOSTON GLOBE MAGAZINE   

MAY 12, 2013

A group of Boston teenagers, a baker’s dozen, crowds into the basement studios of WERS, the Emerson College radio station housed in the Ansin Building on Boston Common. They’re all girls, because, well, that’s the whole point. These are the future voices of GRLZ Radio, a radio station and after-school program run by St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children, in Dorchester’s Uphams Corner. Over 10 years, the girls of GRLZ (streaming at grlzradio.org) have interviewed Governor Deval Patrick, Mayor Tom Menino, and many others, all the while learning radio-production and communication skills. More important, they have gained an outlet for self-expression–an outlet lacking in the poorer neighborhoods where many of the young women live.

(Click here for direct link.)


Boston tries to deter girls from violence

radio
JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF

By Meghan E. Irons
GLOBE STAFF
APRIL 08, 2013

Girlz Radio in Dorchester has a role in the campaign for young women.

The girls were all friends, police in Charlestown say. Then, one evening in February, three of them attacked a fourth. They punched her, pulled her hair, and as she lay defenseless, prosecutors said, one of the girls, 17-year-old Samantha Owen, stole $30 from the girl’s purse.

It was just one of a roster of violent crimes by girls in recent months, punctuated last week by horrific allegations that 17-year-old Samia Jones used a butcher knife to repeatedly stab a young mother in the Savin Hill section of Dorchester.

City officials, alarmed by a string of high-profile cases and by what they say is a worrisome climate of fear among girls in some neighborhoods, are launching a public service campaign aimed at girls who may be headed toward violence.

“This is an issue,” said Marie St. Fleur, a top aide for Mayor Thomas M. Menino on urban issues who is leading the campaign. “We are trying to get our arms around it.”

The effort involves a marketing blitz of positive messages in neighborhoods such as Dorchester and Roxbury that will include billboards and posters, as well as posts on social media.

The main perpetrators — and targets of youth violence prevention efforts — have long been at-risk boys in troubled areas; a $10 million statewide antiviolence measure announced two years ago specifically targeted males ages 14 to 24.

Local ministers and youth advocates say some girls have been fueling gang feuds and staging fights that are posted on YouTube and Facebook. Recent surveys of teen girls by officials looking to address educational gaps and health issues, such as sexually transmitted diseases, discovered girls in some neighborhoods named violence as a key issue.

Boston police data show violent crimes among females 13 to 24 fell from 408 in 2008 to 217 in 2012. And the state Department of Youth Services had a peak of 514 troubled girls in its care in 2003, but just 190 in 2011 and 100 so far this year, said commissioner Edward Dolan.

But officials and advocates who work with girls say that on the street, they are hearing a different message.

“If you talk to young girls they will tell that there is violence,’’ said St. Fleur. “I don’t walk in their shoes on a day-to-day basis, but they have to navigate the communities they are in right now. . . . When we talked to the girls, public safety and violence were among the top things they talked about. ”

Recent examples include a 15-year-old Hyde Park girl who was arrested last month after police alleged that she was among a mob who beat up an MBTA driver at a bus stop on Columbia Road in Dorchester.

And last year, four young women were shot in a car on Harlem Street in Dorchester. Only one of them survived.

Mercedes Reyes, 17, said it is tough to be a girl in Uphams Corner. Not only does she have to deal with the indignity of catcalls from boys driving by in cars, but she has to walk a fine line with girls as well. “Sometimes they just . . . mess with you for no reason,” she said.

And some girls, said 17-year-old Precious Natal, “like to threaten other girls.”

Girls have traditionally committed fewer crimes than boys, but some youth advocates say that girls have been the source of jealousy that has caused violence between rival teen males.

“Males in conflict will use the girls as pawns,’’ said Sheri Bridgeman, director of programs at the Center for Teen Empowerment, a local nonprofit. “They are being used and are caught in the middle.”

St. Fleur said fights in Dudley Square, the triple homicides last year, and the stabbing near Savin Hill train station are all examples of the need for youth advocates to unite around girls to keep them out of trouble. Here the city is mobilizing 30 community groups that work with girls to help in the effort.

The girls’ campaign, still in its infancy, is focusing on the so-called ”Circle of Promise,” a city-designated swath of Dorchester, Roxbury, and other neighborhoods long mired in poverty, crime, and teenage pregnancy.

In the next few weeks, St. Fleur and aide Ramon Soto will hold community meetings, brainstorming sessions, and talk with girls about how to shape the campaign’s message. Girls involved in Girlz Radio, a Dorchester-based Internet station, and at the Holland and Marshall community centers are also helping.

Meghan Irons can be reached at mirons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.


Jordan Knight joins ‘Dancing for Hope’ for St. Mary’s Center

City Councilor Tito Jackson gets a hand from Jordan Knight at the 2013 Dancing for Hope fundraiser to benefit St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children. (StewartSmithPhotography.com)
City Councilor Tito Jackson gets a hand from Jordan Knight at the 2013 Dancing for Hope fundraiser to benefit St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children. (StewartSmithPhotography.com)

02/21/2013 6:53 PM

New Kid on the Block Jordan Knight helped raise $95,000 for St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children in Dorchester at the fourth annual Dancing for Hope benefit over the weekend. The party, which drew about 500 guests (including City Councilor Tito Jackson, who helped emcee), was held at Club Royale and was chaired by Evelyn Knight and Jill Hayes.

(For direct article please click here.)


State gives $2.7 boost to St. Kevin’s rehab

By Gintautas Dumcius
Feb. 14, 2013

The redevelopment of the former St. Kevin’s parish property, considered crucial to the Uphams Corner area, received a boost last week as state officials announced an influx of funds for the project. The firm developing the former school building, called the St. Kevin’s Limited Partnerships, will be receiving $2.7 million in state Department of Housing and Community Development subsidies on top of $768,950 in federal low income housing tax credits.

The group plans to use the money to build 33 units for families that are homeless or at risk of being homeless.

The partnership team also includes St. Mary’s Women and Children’s Center, which will provide some of the services, and Holy Family Parish. The group will be seeking more state funds, since the 2.4-acre project includes 80 residential units. The money announced last week covers about half of the funds needed.

According to the developers, the project includes two new buildings at 35 Bird St. and 530 Columbia Rd. and a re-use of the existing 516 Columbia Rd. building. The Bird Street location would include 12 units while 516 Columbia Rd. would house 21 residential apartments.

The property is bounded by Davern Avenue, Bird Street, Columbia Road, and Virginia Street.

“All the permits are in place; now we have some state funding,” said Rev. Jack Ahern, who oversees the parish that at one time included St. Kevin’s. “We see this is as a critical opportunity for Uphams Corner,” added Lisa Alberghini, head of the Planning Office of Urban Affairs, which is affiliated with the archdiocese of Boston. “We’re hoping we can complete the financing package in the next number of months.” Alberghini said she hopes to start construction before the end of the year.

Whether the project will include a new library remains unclear. The development group had spoken with Boston Public Library officials about housing a new Uphams Corner library early on. Alberghini said on Tuesday that that ball is in the city’s court.

The aging Uphams Corner branch library has been a frequent source of neighborhood complaints. If library officials pass on including a new library in the St. Kevin’s project, the developers plan to include civic space instead.

State Rep. Carlos Henriquez, who lives in the area, called the St. Kevin’s site “critical,” and said he has heard from local residents who have been concerned that the site has remained vacant. Once the project is complete, he said, he hopes it can feed an increase in retail stores in Uphams Corner and support the struggling Strand Theatre next door.

The developers have been chasing state funds since the inception of their project, which was first announced in 2010, two years after the 63-year-old St. Kevin’s parish was closed in a consolidation ordered by the Archdiocese.

The state funding announced last week in Revere came from a pot of $67 million made available for affordable housing in 23 developments spread across 21 communities. “All families deserve access to quality housing in Massachusetts,” Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, who chairs the state’s interagency council on housing and homelessness, said in a statement. “Our administration is committed to providing more affordable housing options for low-income families, and this latest round of resources and tax credits will increase our housing infrastructure and lead to improved community development in regions across the state.”

The Uphams Corner group has already launched a website, which they plan to update as the project moves along: stkevinsredevelopment.org.

(For direct article please click here.)


New Kids On the Block’s Jordan Knight calls Milton ‘The Promised Land’

By Dave Eisenstadter, Town Corresponded  February 6, 2013 09:00 AM

JK_MilktioAs one of the New Kids on the Block, Jordan Knight has loved touring in places like Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Dublin, Ireland, but he still considers the town of Milton “the promised land.”

“I love Dorchester, I’m a Dorchester guy, but when you grow up you have dreams, and Milton is one of those places you dream about,” Knight said while sitting in East Milton Square’s Abby Park on Tuesday.

In a quiet corner of the restaurant, Knight spoke about NKOTB’s upcoming tour with Boyz II Men and 98 Degrees, as well as the group’s recently released single, “Remix (I Like The).”

“We’ve been touring since 2008 since our reunion and we kind of learned… teaming up with other acts from the same genre of music – pop/R&B – and the same era, it really worked,” Knight said, mentioning the band’s previous tour with the Backstreet Boys.

When the New Kids toured with the Backstreet Boys in 2011-2012, fans talked about the two bands as rivals and didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be a great experience for both groups, Knight said.

The newest tour, called The Package Tour, was announced on ABC’s “The View” on Jan. 22. It includes May 29 and 31 shows at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., as well as June 2 and 3 shows at TD Garden in Boston.

Knight enjoyed the announcement on “The View,” describing the audience’s excitement as the group announced who they would tour with.

At the same time as he praised some of the boy bands of the ’90s era, he had criticism for similar acts today.

“Boy bands these days, they’re lazy; they just stand around and sing,” Knight said. “Come on, get up and dance! They’re not coming from that old school.”

New Kids on the Block were inspired by New Edition and The Jacksons, Knight said.

Performing is different for Knight in 2013 than it was in the ‘80s and ‘90s, when New Kids on the Block first made their mark. Concerts would begin, fans would start screaming, and cameras would flash nonstop.

“Back then, it was kind of like what Justin Bieber is going through now – Bieber Fever – but it was like New Kids Fever. If we were sitting here 25 years ago, they’d have to lock the front door,” Knight said.

The New Kids stopped performing for more than a decade, and Knight said he appreciated the second chance to sing and dance with the group again.

Social media have likewise changed the way group members have interacted with fans one-on-one, allowing them to get to know faces, thoughts, and personalities, he said.

“We’ll go on stage and people we know will be in the front row, and we’ll give them a wink,” Knight said. “It’s a lot more personal now for me.”

NKOTB’s forthcoming album, “10,” their 10th American release, features songs from Danish producers known as DEEKAY. The first single from the album, “Remix (I Like The),” was released on Jan. 28.

“I don’t know what’s in the water over there in Denmark, but those folks, they know how to make records,” Knight said. “It’s incredible pop music and also so soulful. They have this cool Euro-rock thing, and it’s like Coldplay and U2 all mixed together.”

When not touring or working with the band, Knight describes himself as a homebody.

“I just hang out with my family; I go bowling every other week here in Milton,” he said. “I don’t even leave Milton.”

He also contributes to the community, acting as assistant coach for his son’s hockey team and volunteering contributions for educational writing software now used in Milton Public Schools.

He is also acting as MC for a charity event Friday, Dancing for Hope, supporting the St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children in Dorchester. The event is at 7 at the Royale Boston on 279 Trement St. Tickets are $30 – $125. For more information, click here.

Knight thanked his fans and the people of the Boston area.

“No matter where we are in the world, we let people know we’re Boston boys and we’re proud of it,” Knight said.

(For direct article please click here.)


Dorchester center maintains tradition of supporting families

By Christopher S. Pineo
The Pilot

 

450x300_Pilot_12415DORCHESTER — In a tough economy where just working a job doesn’t always cut it, St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children works to restore dignity by helping women, children and families achieve economic self-sufficiency and stability.

“The goal and mission is to really look at families in a holistic way, and understand in order for them to be able to be self-sustaining and free of trauma, prejudice and bias that we need to attend to three primary needs, which is their emotional and spiritual, their educational, and their economic stability. We address all three of those areas,” St. Mary’s president Judy Beckler said Nov. 1.

St. Mary’s facility provides work programs, educational opportunities, housing, and after school programs for families, women, children and teens impacted by poverty and trauma.

Beckler gave The Pilot a tour of the 120,000-square-foot facility re-developed from the former St. Margaret’s Hospital in 1993.

In her over 16 years as president, Beckler said the facility has sheltered 2,000 homeless families, cared for 300 parenting teens and their infants, comforted more than 1,000 child victims of abuse and neglect, and equipped 700 women with education and work skills.

Beckler said the aims of the program continue the tradition begun by the Daughters of Charity after an abandoned baby was discovered on the steps of a Boston church in 1870. The Daughters established St. Ann’s Ward at Carney Hospital, then located in South Boston, to provide shelter, comfort, and care for other abandoned babies. Four years later, with the growing demand for services for women and children, St. Mary’s Infant Asylum and Lying-In Hospital was established on Bowdoin Street in Dorchester.

In 1894, the St. Mary’s purchased the Green estate on Jones Hill in Dorchester and moved operations to the location near Uphams Corner.

The current center took up residence at the old St. Margaret’s Hospital in 1993 when all services at the hospital moved to St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton.

“We are almost 20 years old, and when St. Margaret’s closed and moved its services over to St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, there was nothing here except 10 pregnant and parenting teens in a residential program,” Beckler said.

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the new facility whose motto is, “Change comes from the center.”

“What had to happen over the last 20 years is a redevelopment of this entire campus, and what has happened in that time is the development of six integrated programs, all addressing the needs of women and children who are at-risk of living in long-term poverty and have experienced — the majority of them have experienced — trauma in their lives,” she said.

“As we have done scans both state-wide and nationally, this unique collection and continuum of programs, we have not seen any other like it,” she said.

The facilities provide six main programs for homeless families, pregnant teens, young mothers, and neglected or abused children.

The staff at the center makes a priority of empowering those who require services through training, education and practical skill development.

The facility houses and transitions 95 families per year, as the families and the support team at St. Mary’s work through the programs at the facility developing a plan to get families back on their feet and able to provide for themselves. These goals include helping family members gain access to the workforce, reach for academic attendance and success, and obtain permanent housing.

“For them to start to think about how they will get their own needs met and meet the needs of their child for a lifetime, they come with courage and resiliency that is really inspiring,” Beckler said.

Children who have been removed from their homes and have experienced trauma receive shelter and solace through the Bridge Home program. Whenever possible, the staff works to restore children to their homes, families and communities after comprehensive child and family assessments. Beckler said the center works with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.

“The goal really is to help the department make a good decision with the family about where the child will go next. And that is an assessment that lasts over 45 days. It is very intensive,” Beckler said.

The St. Mary’s Home program keeps homeless pregnant and parenting teens on a track toward educational, vocational and personal goals, while they learn to cope and manage the responsibilities carried by a young parent.

The jobs program at St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children integrates paid transitional employment with classroom training. Beckler said the attempt to push for personal financial stability leaves no room for compromise, seeking greater results than just employment for mothers, women and families reaching for stability.

“We are not looking for minimum-wage jobs as a pathway out of poverty. It won’t happen. So, what we have done is to be very intentional about designing a program that allows women to learn the skills they need to apply to a job in industries that are successful and thriving in the Boston area,” she said. She cited healthcare, real estate, higher education and financial services as fields of concentration.

Learning programs at the center push to give women who are homeless or low-income workers further opportunities through increasing basic educational skills, learning the behaviors required to find a job, and the ability to pursue educational advancement such as a GED. Beckler said learning opportunities include resume development and interviewing skills to help find employment that can sustain a family.

The GRLZ Radio program provides training in radio and broadcasting skills for 60 adolescent girls. Skills learned include equipment operation, on-air hosting skills, interview techniques, news writing and news reporting.

“Charity is important, but this is not about charity. This is about giving people an opportunity to have access to a quality job that has the possibility of supporting a family,” she said.

Beckler said St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children has worked hard over the years to maintain their Catholic identity.

“At the heart of it, it is about justice. I think from the trustees’ perspective, from the senior leadership’s perspective, there has been a strong commitment to not only provide but to advocate for justice for women and children. So, that has just felt like a good fit,” she said.

(For direct article click here.)

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