By Zach Smith
For Brazilian-born Worcester resident Simone Almeida, Friendly House is a sanctuary that has helped her and her family adjust to life in the United States.
“Friendly House is the best place to get help,” says Almeida. “The organization has changed my life in a way that makes me a better person, and my family also benefits from the outstanding services they offer.”
Over the last century, Friendly House has helped hundreds of thousands of clients, such as Almeida and her family, achieve their goals for being successful individuals in the United States.
Although the thought of leaving a home country can be frightening for many immigrants, the organization is prepared to offer a multitude of services to make their experiences less daunting and more worthwhile.
Friendly House was founded in 1920 with a mission to provide educational, social, and family betterment for Worcester’s residents. Friendly House works with families, both nuclear and extended, as an integrating force for the families and neighborhoods it serves. They also provide a continuum of comprehensive, coordinated neighborhood basic services to inner-city families. Often, families are not satisfied with the educational and employment options in their home countries, so they choose Friendly House to give them the services that they deserve.
To ensure they fulfill their mission, Friendly House offers a wide variety of programs for families. For children, the organization offers after-school programs, educational and recreational programs, summer camps, and counselor-in-training and teen programs. Families can take advantage of the offers from the social service department, including senior services, basic needs, shelter, and community organizing.
According to Social Services Director Josefina Velez, a considerable percentage of Friendly House’s clients are Hispanic and Latino and come from nations such as Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Venezuela. Looking closer, during the 2017-18 fiscal year, Friendly House welcomed around 4,000 clients, with more than half having Latino/Hispanic ethnicity.
“The families are homeless when they walk through our doors,” Velez notes. “We make sure that the immigrants have the proper documents and are here legally, which we can follow by offering them basic needs such as food, a place to live, furniture, and clothing.”
Friendly House also provides three housing services to any clients who wish to receive shelter or transition from a shelter to traditional housing. Friendly House Shelter, a temporary shelter for women and children; Frances Perkins Transitional and Supportive Housing, a transitional program for families exiting shelter; and Interfaith Hospitality Network, a shelter for families not eligible for state-funded shelter.
Once immigrants settle down, Friendly House staff members work with clients to know what goals they want to accomplish, and what services they would like to utilize. The organization can accommodate goals based on the specificity of what they want to achieve. For example, if clients wish to receive educational support for their children, they can take advantage of Friendly House’s after-school programs to have staff members assist them with their homework, and it will allow them to make new friends.
“The support [Friendly House] give[s] to clients gets determined by the overall need of their goals,” Velez says. “If clients have more urgent needs in one area over another, we will accommodate and assist them in any way they can to make they are satisfied with everything as they progress.”
Friendly House does not deny service to anyone who wants it, and they welcome all clients who would like to use their services, regardless of which nation from which they come (individuals of African, Asian, and other descents are welcome, too).
Everything they offer from educational support to shelter to job assistance to transportation to a nurturing environment makes clients who are in the United States for the first time adjust well and feel even more comfortable than they did back in their home countries. The efforts of Friendly House shapes the identities of clients in positive ways that make them feel that the United States is a safe place to call home.
“The one goal that Friendly House has for itself is to continue to face the challenges of being a successful organization,” says Velez. “Although assisting clients is the main reason why we exist, it can be challenging to keep track of who wants what, and how urgent they need it. All our clients come from various ethnic and family backgrounds, so we have to be able to accommodate them based on the services they want to receive.”
No matter what type of service or assistance a client wants to receive, staff members will continue to work to help them make a better life in the United States, and the challenges that go into the helping process keeps them motivated to do well day in and day out. Although it can be difficult at times to make sure each client gets the services that they want, overcoming those obstacles are a part of the Friendly House’s success for the past, present, and future.