The Brookview House in Dorchester has been recognized for it’s innovative approach to ending homelessness in Boston. The program provides a safe environment while moms with children work to become self-suffiicent. Deborah Hughes is the program's CEO.
Hughes first walked by the Brookview House in Dorchester 27 years ago.
“I watched the building being built and I live in the neighborhood, so everyday I would drive by wondering what was being built here,” she said.
When she found out it was a place for families affected by homelessness, she says she went in, met the women who lived there at the time, and never left.
Hughes, who has been part of the nonprofit world for years, started at Brookview House as a consultant and later became its CEO. The nonprofit has given thousands of women and children a roof over their heads through the years. With Hughes' encouragement, many have found permanent housing and never looked back.
Hughes has a philosophy: “What we say is, homelessness is your experience, it's not who you are," she said.
But who Deborah Hughes is and why she does this runs in her blood.
“My mother was the person in the neighborhood who took people in," Hughes said.
So when women — some fresh out of domestic violence situations or traumatic evictions — come to the door of Brookview, Hughes has only a few words.
“For me, the first thing is 'Welcome.' Welcome to our home," Hughes said.
Carmen Bones remembers those words coming from Hughes when she and her two children came to Brookview in 2015. Bones, like the other women in the 12 apartments, attends workshops and receives job training and help with resources to find permanent housing. Bones says Hughes helps her stay positive.
“She’s a good person. She’s very kind," Bones said. "I’m a strong woman and [I am] positive because I know one day I’m going to get something.”
Deborah Hughes says over the last eight years, Brookview House has seen a 93 percent increase in homelessness in Boston. That coupled with a limited amount of affordable housing makes life more challenging for the women.
“Sometimes it’s difficult being positive, because family homelessness is about women and children. So women who have children with them who are homeless, it’s hard to stay positive," Hughes said.
To maintain a positive outlook, Brookview House has support services for children, too, like counseling, tutoring, or just dancing and having fun. Hughes says those things are important.
“For us, it’s about dignity and it’s about having an experience here that you will have once you move on," Hughes said.
Helping families move on is the mission, and it's time well spent for Deborah Hughes.
“I spend more time here than I do at home," Hughes said.