After 32 years of leadership, Deborah Hughes is retiring from her role as president and CEO of the Brookview House, a non-profit organization in Dorchester led by Black and Latinx women that works for justice, equity, and systemic change for low-income mothers and their children living in Boston. In a letter to the Reporter, she reflects on her decades at the House.
Thirty-three years ago, I drove through my neighborhood and watched as a vacant lot was transformed each day, as if by magic, into a home for women and children in need of a safe place to live and learn.
I walked in, intending to help for a short time, and instead stumbled upon my life’s work: lifting up families experiencing homelessness. The path was at times arduous, yet always fulfilling. I learned so much from the families we assisted and in return they gave me much more than I ever imagined. I met so many kind and caring people who were willing to tap deep into their souls to share knowledge and shed light into dark spaces.
From all walks of life, Brookview program participants, staff, and volunteers united to stand up for families with steadfast resolve. We were from diverse backgrounds. We had people with formal educations working alongside folks with advanced degrees from the school of hard knocks. We led with love, but were tenacious, fearless, and tough. We faced countless obstacles in the form of those not willing to commit the time and effort this work demands. Some even tried to hinder our progress. But we wouldn’t back away from our fundamental belief that society must invest in families and build a fair and equitable future for our children.
As proud as I am of everything we’ve accomplished together, I know the work continues. Family homelessness is more than simply a housing problem, it’s a healthcare issue, among others. The pandemic shed light on the interconnectedness of these issues and how vital the role of housing is in creating a more equitable society for all. Despite the ongoing affordable housing crisis, we know family homelessness is a problem that can be fixed. We have witnessed countless times that when you invest in families, you create a stronger future for caregivers and children.
I was taught by a cadre of courageous moms, including my own, to exploit my inner powers, stand against adversity and pour into, not take, from the world. That is what we do at Brookview every day.
As I reflect on my time in this organization, I know that work would not be possible without our community of friends and supporters, so thank you for helping Brookview thrive over the past 30 years.
What was supposed to be a short season at Brookview turned into three amazing decades where we taught each other what it means to never give up. I will see you in the trenches as I continue my journey and move on to my next chapter.