D’Andrea was just 18 when she aged out of the foster care system that had provided her stability throughout her childhood. “I’m not the person you expect when you think of homelessness,” she said. While staying at St. Patrick’s shelter in Somerville, she decided to apply for food stamps as well as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
The high school graduate also worked in the kitchen at Bunker Hill Community college while taking classes. Despite D’Andrea’s resourcefulness, she couldn’t find an appropriate study environment in the emergency shelter she was forced to rely on night after night.
While she was at the shelter, she met a HomeStart advocate. However, shortly after they began working together, D’Andrea became ill and needed emergency gallbladder surgery. “My phone never worked at the hospital,” she explained, making contact with the HomeStart Cambridge advocate difficult. “We played phone tag, but he never gave up. He called me nearly every day.”
A month and a half later, D’Andrea received the good news that she qualified for her own apartment, a subsidized unit that she could afford in the long run. She also received assistance with start-up costs from the Cambridge Housing Assistance Fund (CHAF), a coalition that partners with HomeStart.
“The very first thing I did when I was housed was re-apply to college. I now have a place to study and do homework”
she said in a moving speech to a crowd of CHAF supporters last October at the organization’s annual Open Doors for the Homeless fundraiser.
Although she continues to struggle with medical issues, D’Andrea has the foundation of stable housing upon which she can further her education and continue building her future, thanks to HomeStart.