Family homelessness in Massachusetts has almost doubled in the last nine years, according to a report released by The Boston Foundation. Today, over 13,000 members of families—60 percent of whom are children—spend the night without a home. This is a troubling statistic. And one which One Family has made its mission to reverse, once and for all.
Since its inception, One Family’s mission has been “to prevent homelessness and break the cycle of family poverty in Massachusetts by promoting pathways to economic independence through advocacy, education, and innovation.” Through their unique, education-driven approach, One Family is making a profound impact.
Nowhere was this impact more visible than at the annual One Family Benefit Breakfast, on April 26th. Hosted in Boston’s Fairmont Copley Plaza, the event celebrates the One Family Scholars and provides a platform for them to share their stories.
Facing myriad obstacles, each One Family Scholar is outstanding in their own right. One of these scholars is Jennessa Burks. Jennessa, who shared her story at the breakfast, truly exemplifies the strength, perseverance, and spirit of a One Family Scholar.
After struggling as a single mother, Jennessa lost her job, her apartment, and she and her daughter became homeless. “Some nights were a guessing game,” she says. “Sometimes I didn’t have enough gas to get to the house we were sleeping in that night.”
Through One Family, Jennessa was able to attend Worcester State University, where she double majored in Elementary Education and Mathematics for Educators. “Although my journey was tough, the One Family Scholars program was rooting for my success the entire time,” she recalls. Today, she teaches fourth grade at Worcester’s Elm Park Community School.
Jennessa’s is but one of many stories—stories of single parents who, with the help of One Family, have fought their way out of family homelessness. Today, One Family has helped over 300 Scholars earn a college degree. What’s more, 90 percent of these scholars are either employed or pursuing another degree within six months of graduation.
“I know without the help of One Family Scholars, my success would not have been achievable,” says Jennessa. “With their financial support, I was able to go to college. With their coaching, I was able to achieve my financial goal. And ultimately I was able to purchase a home not just for myself and my daughter, but also for my mother and my sister as well, and it was all because of the One Family Scholars program.”