“Estoy muy contenta en mi nueva casa.”
“I’m very happy in my new house.”

Like all residents of the former Whitter Street Apartments in Roxbury, Maribel had to move out of her home so that her apartment building could be torn down and rebuilt.

She was relocated to the Ruth Barkley Apartments in the South End in October 2018, where she lived until her new apartment building was completed. In August 2019 she moved back to the Whittier neighborhood, into one of the new mixed-income buildings.

The redevelopment of the Whitter Street Apartments and the surrounding neighborhood is part of HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, a federal grant program that transforms old public housing developments and their surrounding neighborhood. The Whittier neighborhood of Roxbury, in Boston, was selected as a grant recipient, and EMPath was chosen to provide its economic mobility coaching, Mobility Mentoring®, to residents to support them during their relocation and re-occupancy (and in their lives in general). A team of EMPath mentors is stationed at the apartments.

Instead of moving back into subsidized housing, Maribel was able to move into one of Whittier’s new market-rate apartments. With support and encouragement from her EMPath mentor, she had accomplished goals on the Bridge to Self-Sufficiency® to increase her income, making it possible for her to afford a market-rate unit.

For one, Maribel took courses and received her Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate in early 2019. She had already been working as a preschool teacher, but with this new credential her salary increased.

Maribel also raised her credit score and paid off some of her debts. She says she also learned the importance of saving money as a result of working with EMPath. “Tengo más concepto de que hay que ahorrar dinero para el futuro (I have more of a concept that you have to save money for the future),” she explains. “Cuando empecé [el programa] aquí, yo no tenía nada de dinero, y ya tengo un buen ahorro. (When I started [the program] here, I didn’t have any money, and now I have good savings).” Using EMPath’s whole-family coaching approach, Maribel and her mentor also set goals on the Bridge with her mother and twin teenage daughters.

When one of Maribel’s daughters found out she was prediabetic, her daughter set a goal to eat healthier. “La motivó (It motivated her),” Maribel says. “Le ayudó mucho, y ella ya estaba estable cuando toman los niveles [de la sangre]. (It helped her a lot, and now she’s stable when they take her [blood] levels).”

“A ella no le gustaba practicar deportes, [pero] ahora está jugando baloncesto, está haciendo clases de baile. Y eso le ayuda a mantenerse en un peso estable. (She didn’t used to like playing sports, [but] now she’s playing basketball, she’s taking dance classes. And that helps her maintain a stable weight),” Maribel adds.

Maribel’s mom, who lives with her, has also seen improvements in her life through EMPath’s mentoring and goal setting. She took a computer class through the Tech Goes Home program and is working on improving her writing.

“El impacto [del programa] ha sido para mi familia completa. (The [program] has impacted my whole family)”, Maribel says.

One of the very first goals Maribel completed was filing immigration petitions for her brothers and their families to come to the U.S. Maribel moved to the States from the Dominican Republic in 2009, and her brothers still live there.

“Es muy pesado el proceso (The process is very difficult),” she explains. “Toma tiempo. De más cinco años. Pero ellos están en lista de espera. (It takes time. Another five more years. But they’re on the waiting list).”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, Maribel was furloughed from her job. She started looking for a new job right away and was in the middle of the interview process when new restrictions were put in place and hiring came to a halt. She got a temporary job as a nanny until mid-June. In late June, her furlough ended and she was able to go back to work as a preschool teacher.

While of course Maribel is the one who has accomplished these goals herself, she says many of them would have been much more difficult without the support of her EMPath mentor.

“Me han sido fastidio las necesidades y yo he tenido inquietud. Cuando me mudé allá, a donde me mudaron [durante la construcción], allí no yo me sentía bien. (Necessities have been a bother for me and I’ve been worried. When I moved there, where they moved me to [during the construction], I didn’t feel good),” she explains. “Por medio de EMPath pude moverme hasta aquí. (Through EMPath, I was able to move [back] here [to the new apartment]).”

“Me siento diferente porque he cambiado muchas cosas. Ya estoy tranquila en un hogar nuevo, y eso fue por medio de EMPath, del Puente. [Mi mentor] me ha ayudado en muchas cosas. Yo le agradezco mucho a ella. (I feel different because I’ve changed many things. Now I’m happy in a new home, and that was because of EMPath, because of the Bridge. [My mentor] has helped me with many things. I’m so grateful for her).”

Today, Maribel continues to work towards her long-term goals. She is focusing on paying down debt to increase her credit score and plans to participate in a homebuying program with her husband. She says working with her mentor to build up her savings motivated her to want to buy a house. She also hopes to finish getting her driver’s license, as one of the first goals she completed was getting her learner’s permit.

Maribel says working with EMPath has helped her appreciate her past successes.

“He aprendido a valorar más lo que he podido llegar a hacer (I’ve learned to value more what I’ve been able to do),” she says. “Pienso que he llegado muy lejos (I think I’ve come very far).”