Dorchester Neighborhood Service Centers Managers
The Dorchester Neighborhood Service Centers are part of Action for Boston Community Development's network of centers that are on the front lines in the fight against poverty in Boston. The recent recession only made this struggle more challenging.

"Because of the recession, the feeling was we'd see more people losing their homes, their jobs and demand would be higher," says Alison Carter Marlow, the director of the Dorchester Neighborhood Service center. "And demand is higher than it's ever been."

It is for this reason that the stimulus grant that came to the center through Boston ABCD went to hire six additional staff members - two case managers, two stabilization specialists, one job developer and one teen job developer.

Three members of the new staff were used to open a satellite office on Talbot Avenue in Dorchester. Marlow says that the center was hoping the new location

Dorchester Neighborhood Service Centers Manager
would tap into a new population of clients that they hadn't been able to reach in that area. For many of the center's existing clients, the new location is also more convenient.

The recession has also brought a new type of client to the center - people facing a crisis, such as a loss of a job, which is forcing them to come in and get help they never needed before. That is why, says Marlow, they needed a new job developer. "Housing and jobs are at the heart of what we see," she says. "A roof over their heads drives the need to work. The need to work is looming very heavily."

The largest underserved population, notes Marlow, is the Vietnamese community and the stimulus funds enabled the center to hire two Vietnamese speakers on staff. "That was huge," she says. "Once the community is aware that someone speaks their language, the word of mouth spreads and they come in."

Dorchester Neighbood Service Centers - Karleen Porcena
Another new hire, Karleen Porcena, speaks both Haitian Creole and Spanish which, says Marlow, is also a good asset for the Center. For Porcena, who just graduated from college in May, 2009, the job was extremely helpful to her too. She had been looking for a job and had participated in the center's summer youth employment program. When she heard about the opening for a case manager she applied and got the job. "ABCD has a good reputation and I knew I'd be doing good work. I wanted client to client interaction and I got that," says Porcena. "I feel great that this job gives me the ability to empower people in the Boston community on a daily basis."

Porcena concurs with Marlow that many of her clients are the "newly poor" - those clients who are coming in to get help for their first time. She says the center's three major programs -- fuel assistance, summer youth employment and tax assistance - draws them in and then she can direct them to other assistance.

Dorchester Neighborhood Service Centers Manager

According to Marlow, the stimulus funding enabled the summer youth employment program to expand to 300 last summer and Marlow is anticipating 400 for this summer. "Thanks to ARRA, we can put more youth to work," she says.

She adds that this year between October and April the Center processed approximately 1,400 applications for fuel assistance, with 130 applications coming in the last week in April, right before the program ended.

"Stimulus funds benefitted the new poor," says Marlow. "It really allowed us more capacity to deal with the numbers of people now on unemployment."