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USES’s relationship with seniors will endure during a season of change

Four story brick building with adjacent courtyard

Seniors are a treasured group among the many we have served at United South End Settlements (USES) over the decades. Many were not seniors when they first engaged with USES, but we’ve benefited over the years from the steady presence of South End residents who’ve grown with us, shared their stories, and introduced new generations to our organization.

It is with a heavy heart that USES will be bringing our senior services program to a close.  Our desire to maintain services for seniors has bumped against a reality that is both fiscal and programmatic in nature.  Like most nonprofits, we have limited resources. Without significant change, we would be forced to close our doors in the next 3-5 years. To combat this and ensure we thrive beyond the 125th anniversary we celebrate this year, we, as board chair and president and CEO, charged the USES board and leadership team with carving out a new way forward.

In response, USES is launching Vision125: a bold, renewed model of service, designed to deepen our impact on and commitment to children and their families. Our refocused approach is comprehensive and supports the whole family from early childhood and youth development programs, to skills-building and career coaching for parents.  We’re pivoting to a mission focused on harnessing the power of our diverse community to disrupt the cycle of poverty for children and their families. We look forward to engaging seniors in new ways that honor the wealth of knowledge and experience that they’re uniquely able to contribute.

This change is particularly important as we bear witness to the most dramatic cost-of-living and demographic changes the South End has seen in decades.  Despite the rising number of higher-income neighbors, inequality persists that especially affects children.  More than a third of children in the South End still live below the poverty line, and 46 percent of households remain in subsidized housing.  We believe the South End can do more to be a place where all of our residents thrive.

Our new focus underscores a major priority for cities around the country as reflected in Boston University’s 2016 Menino Survey of Mayors – that priority poverty and economic inequality.  According to survey findings, “many mayors believe that inclusion has benefits that extend beyond social cohesion…Nearly a quarter of mayors feel the group they most need to do more to help is the poor. Nearly half of surveyed mayors selected ‘those living in or near poverty’ as the most ‘excluded’ group in their city.”

By supporting children and their parents and caregivers through integrated services, we believe the impact of our new model of service on children will be significant.  And it will have a positive cumulative effect on every member of participating families in our community, including seniors and other extended family members.

We’ll need each of you on board for this journey, united to strengthen our families.  We are looking to bring neighbors together to establish a council to discuss senior engagement, the Senior Advisory Group on Engagement (SAGE).  The SAGE will help us think through how best to collectively engage seniors to counteract the effects of poverty on all generations, most especially our youngest.  We’re already grateful for every bit of time, brainpower, and support seniors will share with us in these years ahead, and we welcome all to continue the conversation. To learn more or to get involved with SAGE, contact Mitsy Chanel-Blot, USES Chief of Staff, at 617-375-8109 or mchanelblot@uses.org

Maicharia Weir Lytle

President & CEO

and

Julia Johannsen

Chair, Board of Directors

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