Could you share a bit about your background?
I’ve been working in the affordable housing sector for most of my professional career. I first started out working for the Lena Park Community Development Corporation managing Winn Residential and the Lena Park Portfolio. I went on to transition into doing work more focused on advocacy through my role at the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations – a membership organization that serves as the policy and capacity-building arm of the community development movement in Massachusetts. I serve there now as the Director of Economic Development.
It was there that I was first introduced to Karen LaFrazia, President and CEO of St. Francis House. Together we hope to continue to collaborate to leverage our resources and create sustainable methods for expanding Boston’s affordable housing portfolio to better serve the population of people who are currently experiencing homelessness.
How did you first learn about St. Francis House?
I’ve known about St. Francis House for a while now. My mom has worked at Pine Street Inn as a case worker for over 30 years so I am very familiar with the homeless community and the struggles that this population faces. When I was with Winn Residential, we would often partner with different shelters around the Boston area and I became even more informed of the unique services St. Francis House provides as a day shelter. However, I was very surprised to find just how robust the services really are. There really is a laser focus on all the different resources needed to support people to the point that they’re able to access real opportunity and make long-lasting changes in their life for the better.
What made you interested in joining the St. Francis House board?
I’m the type of person who thinks about our social issues very holistically. I think this is the best way to really move the needle and create change. I appreciate that St. Francis House shares this same line of thinking and consider myself to be very aligned with the mission and values of the organization. I thought I would be a great fit in terms of offering my expertise in community development, economic development and affordable housing.
The dynamic of governance and leadership on a board is complex and not something I like to jump into unless I believe in the leader and their ability to do the work, to be visionary and to lead the organization in the right way. Working with this population can be difficult but when you walk into the doors of St. Francis House, the commitment of the staff serving those in need is easy to see. Karen’s ability to connect with her staff, guests, and fellow leaders was also really important. You can’t be visionary unless you’re able to build positive relationships within and outside of your organization. Under her leadership, St. Francis House is well positioned to accomplish some amazing things.
What kind of experience, wisdom and strategic thinking do you hope to bring to the St. Francis House board?
I hope to support the expansion of St. Francis House’s real estate portfolio and also to advance the programmatic mindset that coupling housing with supportive services is necessary for ensuring long term successful outcomes. I think that if we continue to lead in the space of development and position ourselves as a strong program partner, we will be able to think more deeply on affordability and how we can give priority to the population that we serve. As we look to the future, I am hopeful my perspective will help ensure that we stay true to our core values and make valuable long-term investments that will enhance our programming.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I am very proud of my roots! I was born and raised in Boston and am Latinx – my family is originally from the Dominican Republic and I consider myself Afro-Latina. I attended high school at Madison Park. From all this I’ve gained a really deep understanding of these communities, of Boston, of existing dynamics and really what is needed to create change. I bring this lived experience to the role and continue to have my ears to the ground in order to best support people who are experiencing homelessness in the city of Boston.