Community Action Agency of Somerville, Inc.
Report of the Governance Committee of the Board of Directors
Results of Election of Representatives of the Low-Income Community
Held January 3-10, 2017
The following individuals (ordered according to the number of votes each received) were elected as representatives of the low-income community:
- Francis Latanowich
- Nanci Baren
- John Ciampa
- Kate Byrne
Each of the above-listed individuals will be seated on the CAAS Board of Directors at its Annual Meeting to be held on Tuesday, January 24, 2017.
East Cambridge Fire -- Support Your Neighbors In Crisis
You may already know that CAAS provides comprehensive preschool and wraparound services to hundreds of families each year through Head Start.
You may not know that CAAS acts as a safety net for these and other families when they are in crisis -- whether that’s the threat of homelessness or a disaster taking everything.
A Head Start family of four lost their home and all their belongings in a massive East Cambridge fire that destroyed or damaged 16 buildings over the weekend.
CAAS Family Advocates have been working tirelessly with the family to provide shelter, clothing, food and transportation assistance. They are also working with the City and other agencies to coordinate supportive services.
Your low-income neighbors need your support now and throughout the year in order to emerge safely and securely from these types of events.
Your donation today will support our ongoing efforts to serve and advocate for families in their times of need.
We know you share our belief that no family should face these crises alone. Thank you for your support!
The Santiagos, a family of 9, were referred to HPP by Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services in June of 2016. They received notice of eviction and were seeking assistance with their housing search and in negotiating with their landlord for more time to secure new housing.
HPP Advocates soon learned that the Santiagos were enduring deplorable conditions. These included: severe rat, mice, cockroach, and bedbug infestations, broken windows, faltering heat, and a gas main shutoff that left the family without a working stove or hot water. The family frequently faced impossible choices, such as between bedbug bite medication for their children and adequate food.
The Alyas, residents of the same building, sought HPP’s assistance soon after. This family of 7 had been subjected to the same, terrible conditions for 8 years. They, too, were facing eviction.
On September 1, 2016, both families were summoned to Somerville District Court. With the assistance of HPP Advocates, both families won negotiated settlements of $35,000.
The building subsequently sold for $1.1 million.
We know you share our belief that no family in this community should endure these hardships. With 35% of your neighbors struggling to meet their basic needs, stories like these are far too common.
Please donate today to prevent homelessness and help your neighbors in need.
Do you want to help set the direction for Somerville’s anti-poverty agency? The Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) is seeking candidates for its Board elections, coming up in December.
“We’re at a critical time in the history of Somerville and CAAS. Without strong voices advocating for our low-income community, we may lose much of the diversity which makes Somerville such a great, strong place to live,” said Board member Justin Hildebrandt. “In order to be a board member you must be a Somerville resident with a commitment to the well-being of Somerville’s low-income persons and households.”
The CAAS Board is responsible for maintaining the mission, values, and financial integrity of the organization. The Board normally meets on the fourth Tuesday evening at 6:00 PM of each month (except for July and December). CAAS actively seeks to increase the racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity of its Board. If you are interested in serving, please contact Dan Futrell, Board President (617-651-1070 or firstname.lastname@example.org) or David Gibbs, Executive Director (617-623-7370 x102 or email@example.com) by December 27, 2016.
Board elections will take place during the week of January 2, 2017, at various locations throughout the City of Somerville. All low-income residents of Somerville (up to 175% of the federal poverty level) are eligible to vote in these elections. Newly elected board members will be seated at the Annual Meeting to be held on January 24, 2017.
The mission of the Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) is to reduce poverty among local families and individuals while working to counteract, and whenever possible eliminate, the societal conditions that cause and perpetuate poverty. For more information, see www.caasomerville.org, or find us on Facebook.
Union United was formed in 2014 to advocate for “Development without Displacement” in response to rapidly increasing gentrification in the Union Square neighborhood and the anticipated arrival of the Green Line Extension and associated real estate development. Initially a collaboration of the Somerville Community Corporation, The Welcome Project, and CAAS, it quickly grew into a broad coalition that numbers over 100 organizations, unions, churches, and individuals amongst its members. David Gibbs, CAAS’ Executive Director, has been attending its meetings since Sept. 2014, and for the last five months he has served as a member of its elected Steering Committee. Union United has been the major voice calling for Community Benefits Agreements to be negotiated directly between the neighborhood and developers specifying the contributions that will accrue to the community in connection with development activity. The list of benefits sought includes affordable housing, protections for small businesses, local and fair hiring practices, green and open space commitments, and many others.
For the first couple of years Union United’s only “staffing” was by SCC’s community organizers, who put countless hours into organizing its many activities (which have included testifying at BOA meetings, submitting written comments on USNP and other city documents, petitioning, door to door outreach, demonstrations, and tabling, amongst many others). With the arrival of Sara Halawa and Sara Levy, our Community Outreach staff members, CAAS has been able to devote some additional staff time to Union United, increasing its capacity to engage in community processes such as the pending Union Square zoning amendment and a recent proposal for the formation of a Union Square Neighborhood Council which will represent the neighborhood in dealings with the City and developers.
CAAS will continue to devote time to this work, consistent with our mission, to ensure that the wealth generated by Union Square redevelopment is distributed fairly and to those most in need. The battle to reverse wealth/income inequality is happening right here in front of us, and it’s very exciting to be able to “think globally and act locally” in this way.
The Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in collaboration with CAAS and ABCD Head Start, was awarded a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to implement the Communities for Healthy Living (CHL) program in Head Start programs in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville. This five year program is unique in its family-focused approach to promote positive lifestyle behaviors including diet, physical activity, and healthy technology use among children and their families enrolled in Head Start. The research team and community partners recently completed year one of the program and preparations for implementing the CHL trial run in Spring 2017 are underway! This work is collaboratively directed by a community advisory board representing each Head Start agency. Over the past year the CAAS advisory board, which is made up of Head Start parents and staff, community representatives, and Harvard students and researchers, met over 8 times to collaboratively adapt an empowerment focused curriculum and a variety of health related resources that will be rolled out in CAAS centers starting in fall 2017. In addition to deciding on the focus, content, and design of curriculum sessions and materials, the advisory board members also worked hard to create a set of partnership principles to guide the group’s relationship building and management process. The advisory board will continue to meet monthly to share their ideas and voice their opinions on the content and learning methods (including social media messaging) to ensure that CHL remains accessible and relevant to the families CAAS serves.
CAAS’ community outreach team has been working on a tenant rights action project at the Clarendon Hills housing project in West Somerville. The Somerville Housing Authority has partnered with private developers to redevelop the site, which would temporarily displace the 216 families that currently reside there. The redevelopment will involve increasing the density of the site by adding 300 market-rate housing units and rebuilding the current affordable housing units. CAAS is working with residents to organize a tenant association that will represent tenants’ voices during the process. Given the vulnerable population currently living in the housing project, ensuring that tenant voices are heard during negotiations is a key goal of CAAS’ community organizing team. Through this process, the tenants hope to solidify their rights and get answers to important concerns about residents’ rights to stay in Somerville during the redevelopment process, whether or not children will be able to stay in the Somerville School District if their families move, and whether all current tenants will be guaranteed the right to move back when the development is completed.
If you’re interested in supporting the residents at Clarendon Hills, please contact Sara Halawa, CAAS Community Outreach Specialist at (617) 623-7370x176 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Efforts underway in Somerville area Head Starts to empower parents and increase healthy behaviors
September 15th, 2016 – Somerville/Cambridge, MA
The Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has been awarded a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to implement the Communities for Healthy Living program in Head Start programs in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville over the next 5 years. This novel program engages Head Start parents and staff as co-leaders to build parent self-advocacy and life skills and promotes healthy diet, physical activity and sleep behaviors in children, which are the keys to optimal, lifelong health.
The Communities for Healthy Living program, led by Kirsten K. Davison, the Donald and Sue Pritzker Associate Professor in Nutrition and Associate Professor in Social and Behavioral Sciences, was developed and pilot tested in Albany, NY by Davison and her colleague, Janine Jurkowski. Preliminary evidence from the pilot study showed improvements in parent empowerment and a decrease in the percentage of children that are overweight or obese. The new funding will allow Davison and her research team of Head Start collaborators to adapt the program to meet the needs of families in the Greater Boston area and rigorously test its effectiveness using a randomized controlled trial.
“This funding presents an exciting opportunity to rigorously test a unique health program that was co-designed with Head Start parents and staff to ensure it meets the needs of the Head Start community, builds on existing resources within Head Start and across these communities, and which can be sustained within the existing infrastructure of Head Start following the completion of the study,” said Davison.
The Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) and Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) are Harvard Chan’s two partnering community agencies on the project, and each will play a significant role as collaborative research leaders in the development and execution of the project.
“Participating in this collaborative process has already resulted in direct benefits to our program, families and ultimately our community,” said Matthew Kardonsky, former Health Specialist at CAAS Head Start, and former site-PI for the Communities for Healthy Living project. “The CAAS Head Start program has historically been a pioneer in both the fields of Early Education and Family Empowerment. This collaboration has sparked a level of engagement and excitement within CAAS Head Start staff, families, and community partners that has resulted in new levels of programmatic engagement. We could not be more proud to be involved in a project that puts families in the driver’s seat of creating a curriculum that will result in positive behavior change.”
Sonia Carter, Nutrition Coordinator at ABCD Head Start, and a second site-PI for the project, also appreciates the project’s innovative approach to helping parents create a healthy lifestyle. “One of the most exciting and invigorative aspects of the grant is the Community Advisory Board (CAB). Parents, staff, and community partners make up this board,” said Carter. “As CAB members, parents are developing their leadership, facilitation, and advocacy skills as they create the modules that they will eventually co-lead with Head Start staff. This speaks to the tremendous impact this model will eventually have on the healthy growth of our children.”
Co-investigators on the project include Janine Jurkowski, associate professor of health policy, management, & behavior at the University at Albany; Sebastien Hanuese, associate professor in the Department of Biostatistics at the Harvard Chan School, and Elsie Taveras, director of pediatric population health management at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children.
Over the next 5 years of this program, Head Start parents, staff, and the Harvard research team will collaboratively adapt the parent empowerment curriculum for the diverse range of families served by CAAS and ABCD, test its effectiveness, and, in the end, create a curriculum that can be used by Head Start centers across the nation.
Hi! My name is Emma Brown, I'm an American Studies major at Tufts University and this summer I had the privilege of being CAAS' development team intern. I had the opportunity to work on a number of different projects and contribute to CAAS' fundraising efforts through research and outreach. The development team kept me busy all summer with tasks such as planning and promoting future events, updating the website, and sending out our mid-year appeal letters, just to name a few. I also volunteered at the annual Taste of Somerville event in June, attended community meetings with CAAS' Executive Director David, and shadowed one of CAAS' HPP advocates for a day. Every day at CAAS was exciting, dynamic, and full of new experiences. I can't believe it is almost over, but I am so grateful for the opportunities and new perspectives that CAAS has given me, and I know I leave this internship having been made richer by the many memories I have made and the amazing people I have met along the way.
This summer has flown by. In just a few short weeks, I'll be starting my senior year at Tufts. I am not sure what my post-grad future will hold, but I know that if I am surrounded by colleagues who are as supportive of one another and as committed to justice as the folks at CAAS, I will be incredibly happy and extraordinarily fortunate.
Deusmira came to CAAS’ Homelessness Prevention Program seeking a solution to her immediate crisis and hoping for a more sustainable housing solution....
We at the Community Action Agency of Somerville are saddened to note the passing of Paul DiPasquale on February 4th, 2016. Paul was an original founding member of CAAS, the anti-poverty agency serving the city of Somerville. After serving as a dedicated board member for many years, he was elected President and guided the agency with CAAS' Executive Director, Jack Hamilton.
It was under his leadership that CAAS developed the Head Start program that serves hundreds of disadvantaged children in Cambridge and Somerville and the Homelessness Prevention Program.
Paul will forever be known for his commitment to public service - both professionally and in his personal life. His stewardship during the early years of CAAS was instrumental in establishing the agency as an important voice for the poor in Somerville.
Paul is survived by his wife, Julia (Tarpey) DiPasquale and his five daughters Patricia DiPasquale, Pamela DiPasquale and her husband Daniel Bracken, Julie Jasper and her husband Robert, Maryanne DiPasquale and Karen DiPasquale. He was the cherished grandfather of Brier and Baird Bracken.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Paul’s memory to CAAS, 66-70 Union Square, Somerville, MA 02143.
We at Community Action Agency of Somerville are saddened to note the passing of our friend and colleague Jack Hamilton, who retired in 2008 after almost three decades as CAAS’ Executive Director. Under his leadership CAAS grew...