Board Member Story: Thomas Reilly

Meet Board Member Thomas E. Reilly, Jr.
Years on Board: 9

The Start

After raising our three daughters in suburban Boston and becoming empty nesters, my wife and I moved into the city to live. For many years I had enjoyed being a trustee of a youth empowerment organization, but with more time I was looking to become involved with another charity. I was introduced to St. Francis House by a friend who was a trustee, and with his help I began to learn more about this organization and the people we serve.

Although I understood that St. Francis House had improved the lives of many people, the first event I attended was particularly eye-opening. It was a reception to dedicate the new seventh floor residential facility at 39 Boylston Street, part of the Next Step Housing program. One of the speakers was an impressive woman who managed a clothing boutique on Newbury Street. In her remarks she mentioned how important St. Francis House was to her personal journey. She explained to the audience that five years before she had come to the shelter after serving a prison sentence. Suddenly, the room became quiet, and you could hear the breathing of the person standing next to you. Everyone was stunned.

This small moment was just the first of many instances that lead me to understand this is a special place. At St. Francis House people in desperation somehow manage, with help and guidance, to recover and start to rebuild fulfilling lives.

Understanding the Mission

At my first meeting with our President Karen LaFrazia, I asked if St. Francis House was affiliated with the Catholic Church. Karen told me that although we are a nondenominational organization, our roots go back to the Saint Anthony Shrine around the corner on Arch Street. Karen was quick to point out that while we are not formally affiliated with a religious organization, we are a spiritual organization. St. Francis House believes in the intrinsic worth of every person. Our effort to improve the life of every single person who comes to our door is our undivided focus with St. Francis of Assisi as our inspiration.

During my time as a Board Member, I have also discovered that St. Francis House is not just providing refuge. While we offer meals, clothing, showers and other basic services, our ultimate goal is to eliminate homelessness. Not only do we supply our guests with the means to stay alive day-to-day, but we look for opportunities to intervene, to provide assistance, to help these individuals improve their circumstances. One example is our Moving Ahead Program where we counsel participants on how to get a job and to be successful in the workplace. Addressing the opioid crisis, managing addiction, and how those efforts intersect with homelessness is a more recent effort.

We are not just applying bandages – we are trying to solve the problem with solutions that work.

Believing in the Mission

Everyone who is employed at St. Francis House; from every member of the administrative staff, to the chef and all of the volunteers in the kitchen, to the safety and security people out front in their blue shirts… they all believe in the mission of St. Francis House. They all get it and having an organization where every member is completely devoted to helping our guests is powerful.

We live here!

St. Francis House Day Shelter is located in the heart of downtown, where the homeless men and women of the city can get a warm meal, explore their options, and start putting the pieces together to rebuild their lives. Just steps from the Common and a block or two from many popular tourist spots, our location serves as a reminder that Boston is their home and we are here to help.

We provide a community of support for the homeless of Boston to start the pathway towards a rewarding job, a home, and a full life. We recently opened 46 units of affordable housing across the street at the Union at 48 Boylston Street. And more to come!

I cannot fully tell you how much I enjoy working with my fellow trustees, the dedicated staff and our guests, all of whom are inspirational. Any small contribution that I am able to make pales in comparison to the personal satisfaction and reward I receive from seeing the results of our collective efforts.

-Thomas Reilly