Studio Shine Clothing Program to Hold Grand Re-Opening

Studio Shine Clothing Program to Hold Grand Re-Opening

On May 25th we will host the Grand Re-Opening of “Studio Shine,” a program dedicated to providing guests with professional and work-appropriate clothing for interviews and on-the-job. The re-opening will unveil a handful of improvements to Studio Shine including further integration with our Moving Ahead Program (MAP), a more diverse selection of clothing with a shop-like experience, and easier, on-demand access for anyone who needs work-appropriate clothing.

Wellness & Life Skills Coach Stephanie Barboza led the project of reinvigorating Studio Shine. She explains that the three pillars defining the purpose of Studio Shine are: Value, Self-Esteem, and Image. This message resonates especially with MAP students who are in the process of familiarizing or refamiliarizing themselves with the expectations of a professional environment. MAP Students will use Studio Shine as an opportunity to learn the dress codes and common expectations of various workplaces and how to prepare and “dress the part” for potential professional experiences on the horizon. “[Having the right clothes] really helps with self-worth. All that hope that we’re giving them, ‘you can get in the office, you can get a job!’ now we’re giving them more tools, more resources so they can dress and feel the part,” Stephanie said.

For MAP students, Studio Shine will be about more than putting on clothing that fits into a dress code. It’s also about finding a professionally appropriate style that works for them. As Stephanie explains it, “They have to own it. It has to be their choice, so they take ownership, adapt, adopt, and become that which they see.”

The increased selection available in Studio Shine makes it possible for more MAP students and guests to find something practical and comfortable. Rather than prioritizing suits and other formal attire, Studio Shine offers a variety of business casual options in addition to more formal clothing. This reflects both the wide variety of jobs that our guests are pursuing, and the changing work landscape that often favors business casual clothing. As our Associate Director of Workforce Development Beth Grand explains it, “The whole idea of Studio shine is supposed to be ‘how do I want to present myself and how does presenting myself in a positive way help my self-esteem and help people see me in a light that makes me marketable?’ It’s both internal and external. And for many of our clients, wearing a suit is not part of that.”

Stephanie Barboza in the newly redesigned Studio Shine.

As the program continues to develop, Beth says they hope to continue to build a selection of clothes that specifically cater to jobs various clients are pursuing. Beth believes that having these jobs represented in Studio Shine is important for the “Self-Esteem” pillar of the project. “They’ll see what they need in there and they’ll feel like ‘oh this is an important profession and a career that is valued,’” she said.

The program delivers on offering increased access by creating the option to visit Studio Shine during operating hours without an appointment. While the best way to use Studio Shine would still be to make an appointment with an Image Consultant, in the case of an emergency, it will now be possible for guests to walk into Studio Shine with the referral of a staff person.

The easy access, neat presentation, and wide variety, of Studio Shine all contribute to Studio Shine’s vision “To define the image for the workforce by providing the apparel and the essentials needed to inspire personal development for all our clients.” With the new improvements to the program, Studio Shine continues to be more than just a place to pick up clothes. Studio Shine is a supportive, affirming, and safe environment where guests and MAP students can find apparel that gives them confidence and prepares them for success.

Celebrating Service, this April, and Always

The impacts of COVID-19 on volunteerism here at St. Francis House, but really across the City of Boston, remain prominent. But as our Associate Director of Day Shelter Services said in passing this past January during the spike in cases due to Omicron: “we can only do the best we can do”.  

Thankfully, for us our volunteers “best we can do” is pretty incredible. Despite Volunteer Services operating at a reduced capacity, we had over 400 individuals volunteer a total of 9,000 hours at St. Francis House in 2021! We reopened volunteer opportunities in our Clothing Department and Resource Center – volunteer roles that were paused in March 2020 due to COVID-19. Celebration is appreciation in action, and this is absolutely something worth celebrating.  

We have learned together, grown through discomfort, and remained open and adaptable. I have seen our volunteer community center dignity and empathy in their approach to volunteerism. We have found resilience in service, but also in the community we have built together. 2021 was all about growth for our Volunteer Services Department, and I feel honored to have experienced these growing pains alongside such dedicated individuals.  

In March 2022, volunteers completed a Volunteer Appreciation Month Feedback Survey. One comment in this survey that stood out was “Thanks for the continued opportunity to be a tiny part of the solution”. During a time when it is so easy to feel powerless, it is just as easy to embrace indifference. I believe volunteerism is a way of rejecting indifference and returning power. Returning power to yourself by giving time, by serving a meal, by listening, by taking some sort of action. Though we must also volunteer in a way that elevates returning power to the communities in which we are serving. Like our volunteers, our commitment to “helping those we serve to achieve renewed lives of dignity and self-determination,” is at the heart of our mission here at St. Francis House.  

To me, one of the most beautiful things about our volunteer program is that our volunteers come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Yet through these varying backgrounds there is a homogenous truth that arises: commitment to service. Whether its college students involved with PULSE and 4Boston who are catching the green line as early as 6:00 a.m. to volunteer in our kitchen, retired folks who spend their time with us, or the working professionals who serve a 7:00-9:00 a.m. shift and then go straight to work – your efforts are seen and so deeply appreciated. 

Thank you, this April and always, for everything you do for St. Francis House. I hope you take some time this month to care for yourself as much as you care for others. We could not do it without you. And in the words of our amazing Volunteer of the Year, Archie Smiles JT, “we did it!” 

Written by Megan Quinones,  former Volunteer Services Coordinator

Meet Frede Reais, our April Staff Spotlight

Frede started at St. Francis House five years ago as a member of our Community Engagement & Safety team. Since then, he has transitioned into a Guest Engagement Liaison and now into the role of Bilingual Case Manager. Co-workers in his department call him the “unofficial ambassador for immigrants” at St. Francis House, since his skills in four different languages make it possible for him to work with clients from numerous backgrounds and nationalities. Even when his work gets stressful, Frede makes sure to spread positive energy to his co-workers and especially St. Francis House guests whenever he can.

As a Guest Engagement Liaison, I started seeing what Case Managers were doing and got more curious about their job and what more we can do to help. Some Case Managers would show me what we do as far as housing. It caught my interest and eventually I took a shot at it myself.

How long have you been with St. Francis House? What do you do here?

I started in January 2017. As years went by working here, I started picking up the routine. I ended up learning a lot, not just from the Guest Engagement Liaisons but also from the Harm Reduction team, and from the CES team who are building rapports with people and saving lives, honestly.

I’ve been in this role since September of last year. Primarily, I work with the Hispanic Portuguese and Cape Verdean communities. I speak about three to four languages. I’m Cape Verdean so we speak Creole and Portuguese but it’s easy for me to understand Spanish. Most of my clients and caseloads are Hispanic. The work I do with my clients often focuses on extra help with immigration and acquiring the right documentation. Especially when it comes to applying to housing programs and different opportunities, valid documentation is required. It’s nearly impossible to get one thing without the other. You might need a birth certificate to get your state ID, but if you don’t have your State ID you can’t request your birth certificate online. There are other channels where folks can advocate or help but it’s extremely overwhelming. It’s a patience game.

I’m learning a lot from my current Case Manager role but I’m also learning more about immigration and how to get our clients more resources.

Is there a part of your job you enjoy the most?

It is interesting to learn about the specific background of each client, like something interesting about their past life before they became homeless, started experiencing mental illness, or struggled with addiction.

I work with many amazing co-workers who try to help each other; they have each other’s back and uplift each other through tough or stressful situations- because it really does get stressful at times.

It’s sad when you walk around and see some of our clients look unbothered because they’ve gone through so much. Their usual perception is “well they don’t care so why am I going to waste my time talking about myself.” So, I try to bring that out of them by saying things like, “Tell me more about you,” or I tease them and joke with them to try to learn more about them. Then eventually when you see more familiar friendly faces, they open up.

By being a case manager I’m able to do that on a one to one level rather than with a quick one or two minute conversation downstairs in the lobby. I get to sit down and actually explore more about the clients I work with so I can gain a thorough understanding of what they’re going through and what I can do to help or, if I can’t help, who I can contact to get them help.

Do you have anything you wish people knew about your department?

Everybody’s role is important and fills in gaps so that we can tackle every issue our clients are facing. We have to make sure they’re fed, clothed, and feel like they’re in a comfortable place so case workers are able to reach out and offer more help.

Generally speaking it’s a very hard job to keep up with. I believe every single one of us who is engaging with our clients has a certain level of mental fortitude. That’s the awesome shield that goes unnoticed in all of us. It’s not just being able to do your job, it’s being able to understand the negative that comes with the job and filter it. We are masters of filtering the negativity to be able to provide some sort of a safe haven for our clients here. I think that’s the best part of the job, honestly. It’s cliché I guess, but it’s a nice thing I see in a lot of us here.

There’s a light of hope that we get to try to find and use as a guide to help our guests. We’re not perfect. We’re always trying to find the best way and trying to improve but it takes time. That’s what I like about it. We’ keep trying. If we can’t accomplish it today, we’ll accomplish it tomorrow that’s the attitude we all share.