Raise the Roof!

by Sarah Lange

Imagine having nowhere to sleep. To eat. To bathe. Now imagine trying to raise your children in these conditions. In MA, approximately 95% of homeless families are comprised of a single mother and several young children, usually under the age of ten. Homelessness isn’t just about not having a place to live–it impacts an individual’s social, emotional, medical, developmental, educational and occupational status, as well. Homeless women and children demonstrate higher rates of mental health issues and problem behaviors, have poorer developmental and health outcomes, and over the long run, suffer from a lack of educational, vocational and economic success, which places these women and their children at continued risk for homelessness. At Abby’s House, we strive to put an end to this cycle by providing shelter, housing and advocacy.

At present, Abby’s House is facing a significant challenge: the roof at 52 High Street–where 55 of our 78 units of affordable housing are located–is in need of immediate replacement. Built in the early 1900s, 52 High Street has a 8,500 square foot roof. Between 2007 - 2010, Abby’s House repaired and patched the roof in an effort to delay replacement.

There are signs of ongoing deterioration of both the roof and the underlying wooden roof decks. If the roof and drains are not replaced, the roof could collapse. Our architects are recommending immediate replacement (see sidebar). The total estimated cost of this project is $300,000, or $35/sq. ft.

Replacing the roof will prevent further damage to the underlying roof deck, structural supports and ultimately, the collapse of the roof. The new roof will also result in a significant increase in energy efficiency. According to our architect, we are currently losing as much as 50% of our heat through the roof! At present, Abby’s House spends nearly $40,000 per year on heat. Installing a new roof will help us save significantly on these costs. Most importantly, replacing the roof will preserve 55 units of safe, decent, affordable housing for low-income women.

On average, we receive 15-20 calls per day. The women who arrive at our door have exhausted their resources, having already lived with family, friends, or in their car. The vast majority of women who turn to us for help have suffered some sort of trauma–molestation, abuse, rape, assault, and/or domestic violence–and often have accompanying mental health and/or substance abuse problems. Twenty percent of our residents have disabilities, predominantly psychiatric. At Abby’s House, we provide a safe place in which woman can recognize her own inner strengths and abilities. We provide our residents with resources, information and support so they can regain their footing on the path to independence. By working with a woman to develop an individualized service plan, we help her move into a place of confidence and empowerment. This model has helped more than 11,500 women to succeed. Preserving the 55 units at 52 High Street will enable us to continue this important work.

Today, Abby’s House is still a trusted community leader, with a base of more than 3,000 donors and more than 200 volunteers. We hope that you will help us preserve Abby’s place in the community by making a contribution to the Raise the Roof campaign today. To do so, please go to our website (www.abbyshouse.org) and use the orange “donate” button on the homepage. When completing your PayPal transaction, please write “roof” on the description line. If you would prefer, you can send your check – payable to Abby’s House – to Sarah Lange, 52 High Street, Worcester, MA 01609. Please write “roof” in the memo line.