IMPORTANT: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has changed the application process for emergency rental and mortgage assistance! Click here to learn more.
Zooming in on Way Finders’ Board member Leonard Underwood
A conversation with Way Finders’ Board member and Springfield entrepreneur Leonard Underwood, of Underwood Photography and Upscale Socks:
“The need for Way Finders’ services is certainly great, especially among young people. Way Finders is definitely filling that hole or that gap when it comes to housing, and being that epicenter, if you will, for housing resources. Seeing the progress of late has certainly given me hope, knowing that we’re moving in the right direction. Way Finders has great leadership, and I’m glad Governor Healey is on board with prioritizing housing.”
Landlords Frank and Barbara Skrzypek love the SNO Mass program—here’s why
In 2019, Longmeadow property owners Frank and Barbara Skrzypek—owners of Enfield Carpet & Flooring—rented to their first tenant through Way Finders’ SNO Mass program, which helps Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher recipients with school-aged children move to communities that offer greater opportunity. In 2023, they rented a second property through the program. In their words:
“We felt we were in a place to help other people, especially to give access to the schools. I love the SNO Mass program, it has connected us with honest people and it’s helping another person,” said Barbara.
“As a landlord, you can get lost sometimes and just thinking about what you can get for rent. I mean, our values, it’s not always about that. It’s not always about money, honestly,” said Frank.
Feeling the glow
She’s feeling the glow—that energy and spirit that comes with having everything going for oneself. Introducing 2023 Family Self-Sufficiency Program graduate Cynthia Torres of Springfield, who shares her glow-up story and gratitude for her Way Finders mentor Evelyn Baez. In Cynthia’s words:
“You may have a million people in your life to speak to, but nobody is going to tell you what you need to hear. They’ll go around it. Because they’re family, or they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Evelyn goes straight to the point. ‘No, you’re wrong. You need to cut it out.’
“The FSS Program didn’t just help me financially, it also helped me to be a better person and lifted up my whole household. I am the rock and I was broken. Now everything is bonded together. I have everything going for myself, I never felt the glow that I feel right now.”
A portrait in perseverance: Jessica Perella, UMass class of 2023
When 2023 UMass Amherst graduate Jessica Perella received the Perseverance Award from the university’s Sustainable Community Development program, she felt seen. And with encouragement from her mentor at Way Finders’ Self Sufficiency Program, she wants to be heard, too.
“That’s right, they saw me! I may procrastinate. But I will never stop. My time at UMass restored things that I lost maybe, from choices I made prior. My confidence and belief in myself grew. Sometimes people feel embarrassed or shame about things they go through. But we’re all here on this earth, we all face something. If no one talks about it, you feel like you’re the only one. But when you voice it, other people can find a strength in your story, that’s what I hope for by sharing mine.”
Advocating for Legislation: Housing Bond Bill priorities of the Western Massachusetts Housing Coalition
Motels have long had the right idea: A brightly illuminated “Vacancy” or “NO Vacancy” sign immediately lets travelers know if there’s rest within reach or miles to go before they sleep.
But when an entire region has “NO Vacancy”? When demand for housing greatly exceeds supply in every city and town? Things are not clear. There’s no glowing sign. There’s just struggle after struggle, as we see each day, among those who want to stay. Who don’t want to hit the road and relocate. But who can’t find affordable housing.
The only way forward? Build our way forward. The upcoming Housing Bond Bill can help us do just that.
Raise your hand if you can be counted on: Introducing resident leader Marta Alvarez
Introducing Board member Marta Alvarez, a resident of Way Finders’ Olympia Oaks community in Amherst since it opened in 2014.
In 2018, when Way Finders sought new members for its Board of Directors, Alvarez was nominated by a staff member. She was excited by the opportunity to engage with, and represent, her community in this new way. In her words:
“I’m honored to be a member of the Board. Because the other members listen when I give my opinion and comments. It’s not, ‘Well, we do these types of projects all the time and we’re not interested in how tenants feel about it.’ No, they’re concerned about our communities from a resident’s side. It’s a good space for the members to hear a resident’s side of a project or proposal.”
The only thing better than being given a chance? Being given a second chance.
The only thing better than being given a chance? Being given a second chance. Meet Adlin Villalba, a 2023 graduate of Way Finders’ Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program.
“My first time in the program, I didn’t graduate. But here I am! I’m so happy I was allowed to join it again. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here telling my story.
“My kids don’t know about my big day! I wanted to surprise them. I think I’ll say, ‘Hey, let’s go out to eat! Olive Garden? On the Border?’ They’ll probably be like, ‘Mom, what’s going on? Are you pregnant?’ You know, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, I’ve disappointed my kids sometimes in the past. With this surprise, I want to be able to say, ‘Boom! I did this, you guys! I worked hard, I put my all into it.’ I’m happy today. I’m very excited.”
Boom. You did it, Adlin! Congratulations.
Introducing Way Finders’ newest education for the community: Housing Search Workshop
When Director of Homelessness Prevention Services Ruth Vasquez started at Way Finders in 2013, she answered a lot of phone calls. One still haunts her.
“A girl received a notice to quit [a letter from a landlord asking a tenant to correct a lease violation or move out]. When she didn’t move out, the landlord locked her out. She was afraid, so she took her things, turned in her keys. Then she was homeless, bouncing with nowhere to stay. She didn’t know that she wasn’t supposed to move out—that the only person who can evict you is a judge from housing court. Not a landlord.”
Pushing forward through challenges: Meet mental health clinician Mandy
“Way Finders helped me to rebuild my life,” said Mandy, a mental health clinician whose name has been changed to maintain confidentiality. “I grew up in Springfield, and after high school graduation everything was nice.
Turning the corner on housing instability, finding peace and possibilities
What does it feel like to turn the corner on housing instability? After years of constant moving—among family, friends, shelter—and trying to do the right things, always, to keep from being asked to leave. What does it feel like to be free of that weight?
We asked Amanda, who recently moved out of a Way Finders’ shelter and is part of our Employment Support Services program: “I’m doing well, feeling good! Just feeling more at peace with everything, like I can finally put down my coat, take off my shoes. We finally have somewhere to rely on, not someone. I mean, I still have worries, that’s just natural for me. But they’re lighter.”