“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators.”
— Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University
Caritas’ Healthy Resident Program
Once housed, we must help our residents achieve health, well-being and social belonging.
- Over 70% of Caritas residents have experienced homelessness
- Over 50% arrived straight from homelessness
- Over 60% earn under $15,000/year
- 20% have nobody they can rely on for help or connection
In response to these staggering statistics, Caritas developed the Healthy Resident Program to help heal the outcomes of poverty and homelessness that result in isolation, distrust, depression and poor health.
Caritas’ Healthy Resident Program encompasses free Y memberships, community meals, open art workshops, writing workshops, budget workshops and libraries in our homes, all intended to provide Caritas residents with opportunities to connect with others and participate in activities that facilitate physical and mental wellness and social belonging.
Participation in the Last 12 Months
- Over 1,000 meals provided through our Community Meals program to our residents.
- Over 30 residents have participated in the Get Fit program, utilizing Y the memberships.
- Over 700 instances of client participation in the open art studios and writing workshops.
Participation in our Healthy Residents Program has drawn residents out from their rooms, built friendships, established friendlier communities, and developed connections with the critical resources provided by our case managers. Residents are sharing stories, laughing and taking steps to build friendly bonds with each other. All of these interactions and activities have improved the physical and mental well-being of our residents.
We Need Your Help
Help us maintain these vital programs for our residents.
Our Healthy Programs
Caritas provides monthly Y memberships to the residents of Central House to use the Y facilities and access fitness equipment and exercise classes. At any given time, 15 residents participate on a regular basis.
Open Art Studio
We all need an outlet for expressing ourselves, and from this premise grew the Caritas Open Art workshop. In January 2014, we launched our first Open Art workshop at the Caritas Bedford Veterans’ Quarters (BVQ), home to 66 previously homeless veterans, most suffering from PTSD or other issues that took their lives off track after their service. The instructor, Seamus Gersy, an artist, teacher, and Gulf War veteran, leads these classes with skill and sensitivity. With two other volunteer co-leaders, Gersy understands these men and encourages residents to create art with paints, pastels, pencils and crayons. A core group attends each class. Others stop by to share the models, jewelry and paintings they’ve created in their rooms. Still others stop by just for the snacks. They all come to make a connection.
The Open Art Studio provides a respite from isolation. It is a safe, expressive outlet, and the success of it becomes more apparent each week, as men who barely spoke at the start share stories of their youth, their service, their health struggles. But mostly, they share everyday conversation. It is not therapy, but it is a chance to connect and to have a creative outlet. They have become part of a group who cares about one another; and for all of these personal and social reasons, the success is immeasurable. Built around art, it is so much more.
As a result of this success, in January 2016, we opened our second Open Art Studio at Central House in Cambridge, home to 128 previously homeless men.
Community Meals bring residents together to form friendships, connect with case managers and eat nutritious food, often unavailable to our lowest income residents. These meals are especially critical to our residents during the holidays. The Bedford Veterans Quarters provides monthly meals and monthly birthday cakes. Central House provides a community meal six times/year and many of our other houses have quarterly and holiday community meals led by our case managers with the goal to meet new residents, create trust and provide support where needed.
Two residents sit quietly, absorbed in the task of writing. One writes fiction, the other writes about the brother who is his best friend and hero. Another resident draws colorful and elaborate images to illustrate his work. A Spanish-speaking resident tells his story to a volunteer who writes it down. Such is a typical afternoon at the Central House Open Writing Workshop—“open” in the true sense of the word. The men might come to put down on paper ideas that have been living in their minds for a while, or they might work at creating a story on the spot. They might come just to chat or just to listen or just to be in the company of others. One resident, whose great-grandfather was the child of a slave and grew up to become an engineer, is slowing compiling short profiles of him and other amazing relatives. Everyone has a story. And everyone wants to be heard. The Writing Workshop, which began at Central House in Cambridge in October 2015 and is run by two volunteers, is a safe, nonjudgmental and comfortable space where some wonderful things happen.