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An interview with Andrew DeFranza, executive director, harborlight community partners
Harborlight Community Partners (HCP) is a nonprofit, Massachusetts-certified Community Development Corporation serving Essex County. HCP develops, manages, and advocates for quality, service-enriched housing that is affordable and inclusive, focusing on the needs of underserved populations.
The HCP mission,collaborating with communities to cultivate just, equitable and sustainable housing opportunities vital to the health and strength of the individuals and communities of our entire region, is woven into the fabric of every HCP housing project.
Whether that be affordable housing preservation such as Rockport High School Apartments for elders, the Boston Street Crossing in Salem, a unique supportive service model for formerly homeless individuals, or new construction like Maple Woods (pictured below), HCP is focused on creating inclusive, thriving communities.
HCP currently supports 406 housing units in 10 North Shore communities, providing homes for close to 600 people. With over 500 names on the HCP housing waiting lists, persistence in this work is critical.
"Being a woman and being homeless is hard. Really hard. I finally feel safe."
How did your organization get started?
HCP is one of the oldest and largest nonprofit affordable housing providers on the North Shore of Massachusetts, founded by the First Baptist Church in Beverly in the 1960s. Church members created “Harborlight House,” driven by the belief that their elder neighbors deserved an affordable place to live with dignity. They then went on to build Beverly’s Turtle Creek and Turtle Woods — all affordable, and for seniors. As the need for housing continued, HCP was formed (2009) through the merger of several smaller housing organizations to propel this eff ort further.
What has been the most fulfilling part of your work so far?
There are many fulfilling aspects, but perhaps the greatest is creating space for people from all walks of life to live and work in our communities and seeing all the good that flows from that. Knowing people are safe, in homes they can afford, and watching the opportunities unfold when an individual or family is affordably housed is what keeps us going. Also, as it becomes increasingly hard for our most essential workers to make ends meet, we take pride in supporting those whom we rely on every day — health care workers, EMTs, service workers, grocery store employees, and those taking care of our elderly parents and children. All are deserving of our respect and affordable homes throughout our region.
At SVB Private, we pride ourselves on understanding what our clients’ wealth is really for and why they work so hard to achieve it. Can you tell us your Why of Wealth?
A home is everything. Home is where children thrive and parents have the opportunity to strive for increased economic growth. It’s where elders, who built and contributed to their communities all their lives, can age in place, well-supported and connected to their networks. A safe, affordable, dignified home is where generational struggle and poverty end and the journey to a brighter future begins. Homes are way more than a place to lay your head, homes are about solutions. Affordable homes, with HCP’s supportive services model, are how we create that kind of transformative, lasting change — one with an immeasurable return on that investment. Affordable housing creation takes courage, tenacity, patience, and philanthropy. Vibrant and inclusive communities — this is our WHY, and we hope those in the SVB Private community will choose this solution with us.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Affordable housing creation comes with many challenges, not the least of which are shrinking state and federal funding mechanisms to create housing. While HCP has been quite fortunate to have garnered state and local support, the pace at which housing creation happens is frustrating when demand far outpaces supply. This was made most evident in 2020 as we witnessed an existing housing crisis and the current public health crisis converge in ways we never imagined. When a home is even more essential to personal and public health, the need for high quality, affordable housing is paramount.
What are your dreams for this organization over the next three to five years?
My dream for Harborlight Community Partners is that we will have learned better ways to improve the quality of life for the people we currently serve in our housing, that we build 100 more homes for people seeking opportunity and safety, and that we will have influenced and improved the social climate in our region to be more open and equitable.
My favorite part of the day is ________ because ________ .
My favorite part of the day is when I am on a building site, seeing new homes growing out of the ground, because it gives me hope that someone will soon have the opportunity to thrive in that space. I envision children playing, parents able to live well and dream for their futures, and seniors feeling the relief that comes with stability and safety.Learn more about Harborlight Community Partners.
"I’m so grateful. To be sober, and for Harborlight, for this home and now one that will be brand new. It really can’t get better than that. I really can’t believe how lucky I am. Harborlight has been so good to me, to all of us."