A Night in the Life: Welcome Center Manager Shelley Holmes

Spend a night with Welcome Center Manager Shelley Holmes and learn how she prepares and oversees the Welcome Center each night for our youth who need a place to stay.

2 PM

I arrive at Bridge and head to the 2nd floor to check in with some of the youth I know who stay at Bridge at night but also use our programming during the day. It’s important that I have time to interact with the youth to build trust. Tonight, one youth tells me how she just got a job offer, and we celebrate that together. I also check in with my team at the Welcome Center (Bridge’s overnight space) to make sure everything is ready for this evening.

3 PM

I go to the 4th floor for a meeting with the intake team, who tell me about two new youth who have come off the waiting list for the Welcome Center, which I manage. They share the information they have on the youth, including how long they’ve been homeless, any schooling or job they may have, their mental health status, finances, etc., so we can work together on a plan.

4 PM

I have a meeting with one of the new youth who is looking to learn about more about what it is like to stay at the Welcome Center. I explain the rules to him: the Welcome Center is a lottery-based system that offers each youth a bed for up to 14 days (with a possible 14-day extension). Dinner is served from 6 – 7:45 pm, curfew is at 9 pm, and lights out is at 10 pm, after which youth are not allowed to leave the building. As this youth has never stayed in a communal environment before, I try to reassure him that it is a calm space and that other youth are friendly and welcoming. He decides that he does want to stay in the Welcome Center, so we arrange a bed for him for tonight.

5 PM

I wait downstairs in the lobby to welcome youth into the building. The other new youth who is staying with us tonight comes in complaining about how she was sleeping on a friend’s couch yesterday, but was told she had to leave, so she had nowhere else to go. While some of the youth certainly do couchsurf while looking for a place to stay, we also know that some sleep outside, although they may not mention it.

6 PM

At 6, the Welcome Center opens, so I go back to the 2nd floor and help serve dinner to the young adults. There, some of them share with me about their days, but some prefer not to talk too much, so I just let them be. Some youth take a shower after a long day, others do their laundry or catch up on job applications or schoolwork.

8 PM

After dinner, the youth relax by playing pool, listening to music, or watching videos on their phones. I hang out with the youth and get to know them better. Upon talking to one of the youth, I learn that she is interested in continuing her high school education, so we make a plan for her to visit the Education & Career Center the next day.

10 PM

At 10, it’s time for lights out, so I tell the youth goodnight and go upstairs to my office. There, I work on putting data about youth into our database and completing bed stay reports, which enter youth into the lottery for housing if they’ve been homeless in Boston for 30 days. I also complete Housing and Urban Development (HUD) assessments, which includes much of the information that intake shared with me earlier—information about youth’s histories, how long they’ve been homeless, their mental health background, schooling information, and financial information, as well as any history of domestic violence, incarceration, foster care, etc. Both of these documents (bed stay reports and HUD assessments) are necessary in order for youth to be eligible for social services, such as an apartment through the Rapid Re-housing program or one-time subsidies for things like rent, food, or car payments.

11 PM

I check the beds in the Welcome Center and upstairs in our overflow space (we have added 8 extra beds to accommodate the winter spike) just to make sure all the youth are doing ok. One youth is having a tough time sleeping, so we speak for a few minutes while he gets up to get some water before returning to bed.

12 AM

I do one more check on the youth and overnight staff to make sure everything is OK.