By Primrose Morrison, BuzzAround Writing Intern from Southern New Hampshire University
In 1982, the MainSpring Coalition for the Homeless was founded by Marie Sheehan, Jack & Patti Conway, and local community leaders in response to the growing number of individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Brockton. Their emergency shelter opened at the corner of Main and Spring Street, resulting in the name, MainSpring House, being the shelter’s name and organization. A video showcasing their history produced by The Jack Conway Company can be watched using this link: tinyurl.com/conwayfbms. In 2007, the two separate organizations (the MainSpring Coalition for the Homeless and the Quincy Interfaith Sheltering Coalition, which operated the Father Bill’s Place shelter in Quincy) merged to become a single entity resulting in the organization known today as Father Bill’s & MainSpring (FBMS).
FBMS has been working toward transitioning its service-delivery model from an emergency shelter response to a more proactive housing resource approach to ending homelessness. Although the overnight shelter is a critical service – one they’re committed to providing if there’s a need – they have found through research of best practices that getting ahead of the crisis and reducing the need for emergency shelter is the most compassionate and cost-effective approach. That is achieved by investing in daytime services that help prevent households from becoming homeless and re-housing individuals and families that have already lost their housing more rapidly.
To ensure they stay ahead of the crisis and reduce the need for emergency shelter, they have revamped their family programs and are building innovative Housing Resource Centers in Quincy and Brockton to serve individual adults. In Brockton, the Housing Resource Center at the former U.S. Army Reserve Center at 124 Manley Street will include an innovative day center, an emergency shelter, and 32 units of permanent supportive housing. The new Housing Resource Center, expected to break ground later this year and open in 2024, is expected to replace the MainSpring House emergency shelter located in downtown Brockton. Their day services will offer access to housing support, health care, technology, meals, showers, laundry, day lockers, and connections to partner resources, including behavioral health, addiction, and recovery support. For more info about their Housing Resource Centers, visit pathhome.helpfbms.org.
Beyond the housing resource model that focuses on homelessness prevention, diversion, and rapid rehousing, their plan also includes producing more permanent supportive housing for their most vulnerable neighbors. FBMS is committed to producing more regional housing options and will explore new partnerships and creative solutions to meet the demand. For example, in 2022, they successfully converted a former hotel in Brockton into 69 permanent supportive housing units for formerly homeless individuals, called the Roadway Apartments – the first development of its kind in Massachusetts. Also, in 2020, they opened the Envision Bank Home for Veterans (home to 10 formerly homeless Veterans) on vacant land generously donated by Envision Bank in Randolph. They believe repurposing unused or underutilized properties can be critical in ending homelessness and will require strong public-private partnerships to advance this vision.
Father Bill’s & Mainspring (FBMS) believes no one should be homeless, and that belief is their motivation to not just manage but end homelessness. Thousands of individuals and families are struggling to meet their basic needs, like accessing safe shelter and a warm meal, so FBMS is committed to being the safety net that ensures no one is forced to sleep outside or go hungry. In addition to your basic needs, FBMS provides supportive services to help individuals and families secure housing and achieve more self-sufficiency. This is why they are proud to operate more than 700 permanent supportive housing units across Southern MA, which is more than the total number of shelter beds we operate on a nightly basis.
Father Bill’s & MainSpring understand the struggles individuals may face which is why they ask that anyone facing any difficulties whether related to economic, domestic, health, social, and/or other obstacles, ask for help. They are part of a network of providers, called the South Shore Continuum of Care, that offers support to individuals and families facing homelessness. To learn more about the continuum, visit southshorecoc.org. And to learn more about FBMS’ services, visit helpfbms.org/help.