A lot has changed for Carmen in the past several years.

Not long ago, she was living in Orlando, Florida, working full-time at a sales job that paid her enough to own her own home where she could raise her children. When the recession hit, she watched her scheduled hours at work drop from 40 hours each week, to 20, to 15, and eventually to none at all. Without income or prospects for a new job, she fell behind on her mortgage payments, spiraled into debt, and ended up losing her home.


When Carmen first enrolled in our Family Self-Sufficiency program, she had just received a housing voucher from Cambridge Housing Authority. Before that, she’d been living in a shelter with her kids and taking classes at Roxbury Community College. She’d come to Massachusetts to be closer to family, get things back together, and, as she described it, “work hard for what I have right away.”

In many ways, Carmen’s story is an example of what can happen when public assistance programs are really delivered to help people move forward. The housing voucher gave her the stability she needed to focus on school and jumpstart a new career. Carmen is now a Certified Nursing Assistant and medical assistant, working full time at a rehabilitation center in Dorchester. At the same time, the Compass FSS program is supporting her to manage her finances, resolve her debt, rebuild her credit, and save toward her family’s future.


Carmen’s goals in the program are to get her family back into their own home, and to help her daughters go to college. Getting there will take time and hard work, but Carmen is determined. Her kids are excelling, too. Her oldest daughter is a straight-A student at a top-performing charter high school in Boston. At the school’s encouragement, she’s applied to attend an academic program at Harvard next summer.

“My motivation is my kids,” says Carmen. “I want my kids to learn you need to work hard for what you want in life.” By all signs, her kids are taking that message to heart.


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