This past semester MAAP was incredibly fortunate to have partnered with the Simmons College School of Management’s Socially Minded Leadership class for their direct service learning. Along with their accompanying curriculum focused on developing culturally responsible leadership skills and principled leadership instead of management, I had the opportunity to speak with students about poverty, homelessness, and leading and helping to empower people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity.
Throughout the semester, the fourteen students came to MAAP to work with recipients to provide tangible support, to better understand the community MAAP serves, the challenges they experience, and the barriers to stable and safe housing. The students were in awe of the extraordinary resilience and determination our recipients have to survive and overcome such dire circumstances. In addition to direct service, the students spend much of the semester meeting recipients’ broader needs by updating several of our resource guides to ensure those we serve have the most accurate information needed to access necessary services like emergency shelter, housing, and food assistance, to name a few.
The students were especially interested in the unique additional needs of women experiencing homelessness and were incredibly upset to learn many have great difficulty accessing expensive but necessary menstrual products. In order to remedy this for at least some of our recipients, they held a bake sale on campus and with the help of Julia, a student who is an “extreme couponer”, they were able to purchase enough supplies to make feminine hygiene kits (including personal items and cleansing wipes) for 250 MAAP recipients. With their remaining funds the students purchased 180 tubes of toothpaste, 100 toothbrushes and 100 sticks of deodorant for regular hygiene kits! The students were also an incredible help with the May Tag Sale, focusing on advertising and general operations during the sale.
Many students were most excited by the MA Coalition for the Homeless legislative action day we worked on along with our colleagues from First Church Shelter, the Poor People’s United Fund and Boston City Mission. In the Great Hall of the State House, the students, along with about a hundred other concerned citizens and legislators, listened as several residents from across MA who were currently or had formerly been homeless shared their experiences and requested increased funding for key housing and homelessness budget items, and stressed the importance of prioritizing residents experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Then, the students and I, along with representatives from our fellow host organizations, formerly homeless residents and allied medical professionals delivered blankets to legislators with an accompanying demand for a declaration of A State of Emergency on Homelessness in MA and for subsequent urgent action to be taken including adequate funding of programs with proven success that were in the proposed budget, a statewide Homeless Bill of Rights and the removal of language that forces families to stay in places unfit for human habitation before receiving emergency shelter. We all then met with a representative from House Speaker DeLeo’s office. Afterwards, students noted how powerful it was to see people who have experienced homelessness take a leadership role in advocating to legislators for funding for vital programs and prioritization of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
We thank Dr. Michelle Kweder, Annika, Kyree, Claire, Taylor, Julia, Deanna, Sam, Tristen, Natalie, Azeb, Shayna, Phoebe, Samantha and Hannah for your wonderful help and support of the people MAAP serves this past semester!