Watertown Community Foundation Awards $729K in Grants to Help Residents Meet Basic Needs

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The following announcement was provided by the Watertown Community Foundation:

The Watertown Community Foundation (WCF) has awarded $729,229 to three local non-profits serving low-income populations in Watertown to meet ongoing basic needs in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanks to funding from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED) Community Foundations Grant Program for COVID-19 Relief and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Community Block Grant Program, these grants are providing Watertown families rental assistance, paying for utilities, transportation, and technology needs, and supporting food assistance.

WCF has partnered with EOHED and DHCD since 2020 to direct $1.6 million in state funds to local non-profits supporting families most effected by the pandemic and who continue to struggle as a result. Of this, WCF has distributed $505,381 for rental assistance and $916,952 for food assistance.

“Because of the urgency of putting these funds to work as quickly as possible during the COVID- 19 crisis, Massachusetts chose to partner with the state’s 14 community foundations which knew where need was most urgent and distribute these funds immediately to organizations responding on the front lines. Without the Watertown Community Foundation, Watertown wouldn’t have received these vital funds to support our most vulnerable populations,” said Lauren Coughlin Unsworth, co-president of the Watertown Community Foundation.

This fourth EOHED grant of $208,777 continues earlier funding to two non-profits: Wayside Youth and Family Support Network to provide help with utility bills, groceries, transportation, and technology needs through the City of Watertown’s Social Service Resource Specialist (SSRS) Program; and Metro West Collaborative Development (Metro West CD) for their Rental Assistance Program.

In March DHCD approved WCF’s proposal for an additional $520,952 for food assistance. With this funding, the Watertown Housing Authority will be able to continue the Food Delivery Program and introduce the Fresh Produce Pick-Up Program.

“Inflation and rising food costs are putting low-income families in Watertown under financial duress and increasing their vulnerability to poverty, food insecurity, and housing instability. We are grateful for our partnership with the State for their commitment and to our local non- profits for their dedication to continuing to meet these fundamental needs,” said Tia Tilson, executive director of the Watertown Community Foundation.

This Year’s Grants Will Help 815 Households

“When costs rise and incomes don’t, people need to make hard choices between rent, food, and utilities. This grant has helped ease these choices. We’ve been able to help people keep their power on, buy groceries with grocery store gift cards, and provide pre-paid phones so people can be reached for work opportunities or medical appointments,” said Sophia Suarez- Friedman, Social Service Resource Specialist (SSRS) Program Coordinator, Wayside Youth and Family Support Network.

“Metro West Collaborative Development helps people with low and moderate incomes stay housed. Our Ready Renter Program, Housing Clinics and Emergency Rental Assistance Program serves about 100 Watertown households every year. With rents and evictions rising, we have a waiting list for emergency rental assistance. This grant has been a lifeline, providing emergency rental assistance and keeping a roof over people’s heads,” said Alisa Gardner-Todreas, Director of Housing Program and Policy, MetroWest CD.

More than 700 extremely low-income households live within the Watertown Housing Authority. The average annual family income is $20,236 and the annual income for an older adult is under $15,000 per year.

“In Massachusetts more than one of every four low-income households aren’t sure where their next meal will come from. As food costs soar, it has an outsize impact on extremely low-income households which can’t close that financial gap and still pay rent. The Food Delivery Program, combined with the Fresh Produce Pick-Up Program, provide vital access to diverse and nutritional food, and produce from our local Farmer’s Market and grocers. This means critical cost savings for Housing Authority residents who need to pay rent to prevent eviction from housing that is deeply affordable. In Massachusetts when a household is evicted from public housing, they are prevented from applying for public subsidized housing for two years and become temporarily ineligible for an emergency assistance shelter. This program is a wonderful opportunity to support extremely low-income tenants and educate people about other long- term food benefits after the grant concludes, like SNAP/HIP and local CSA programs,” said Olivia Fields, LCSW, Director of Resident Services.

About Watertown Community Foundation 

The Watertown Community Foundation works to build and sustain a vibrant, close-knit community in Watertown – now, and for future generations. To accomplish this, WCF connects networks of non-profits, grantees, program participants, and stakeholders; builds financial resources from people and partner institutions; grants funding opportunities to non-profits and community projects. Since its inception in 2003, WCF has awarded more than $3,000,000 in grants to programs and organizations serving Watertown. 

WCF Board of Directors

Lauren Coughlin Unsworth and Mary Ann Mulligan; Co-Presidents; Albrik Avanessian; Emily Barclay; Jennifer Davis; Ninos Hanna; Eileen Hsu-Balzer; Heather Leary; Maria Panaggio-Phillips; Anthony Paolillo; Lora Sabin; Robert Shay; David Siegel; Felicia Sullivan; Elaina Themistos; and Donna Tuccinardi

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