Horizons for Homeless Children Appoints New CEO

Horizons for Homeless Children, a New England non-profit dedicated to combating family homelessness, appointed a new CEO on February 2.

Kate Barrand, who has served on the company’s board of directors for over 15 years, began as an early childhood educator. She then led Marketing and Strategy teams at Bank of Boston, and went on to be the founder and CMO of Clareon Corporation.

“A friend of mine always said that I’ve been able to ‘see where the puck is going instead of where it’s been’. Honestly that is the only thing I know about hockey, so don’t ask me to elaborate,” Barrand said with a laugh. 

Her time with Horizons began when she was in her mid 30’s and pregnant.

“It’s funny how things happen in life. Pregnant with my second child,” Barrand said. “I was asked to bring the executive team of [Bank of Boston] out on a community service day, and Horizons was the place. We were helping build the first education facility in Dorchester. I was horrified to find such a large amount homeless children. I then saw what Horizons did in their education centers, and how caring and committed they were to these kids, and I just couldn’t let go after that.”

Barrand was later appointed into the Board of Directors, and Horizons — ever so slowly — began to take a stronger prevalence in her life. “If you asked me three years ago where I thought I would be now, I would have never guessed right here. Now I am more inspired than I have ever been.”

According to a study done by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the number of homeless families in the Massachusetts area increased 94% between January, 2007 and January, 2014. That’s 2,468 families, to 4,781 families in just seven years.

“The Affordability Gap speaks to the average wage vs. the average rent. Most of our families have an annual income of 14,000 dollars,” Barrand said. “To live comfortably in Boston you should be making at least 52,000. A survey done by Greater Boston Shelter found the average age of homeless children was 5 years old. People think of homeless people as single men or women, you know? The conversation of family homelessness never plays a factor.”

When asked what is being done to combat this massive gap, Barrand said: “Unfortunately there is nothing we can do. These are just the cards we’re given. My personal mission is to elevate the dialogue.”

When asked further what she is going to do as CEO, Barrand said: “There are 200 children on our waitlist most of the time which is worse than it was 35 years ago. I am here to broaden support for families. I’m going to partner with other non profits in the area that combat women in crisis. I want to actually provide a constellation of services. Like I said, I can see where the trends are heading. I’ve always brought a willingness and desire to collaborate both inside and outside my organization. Horizons needed both of those skills. We can’t solve this problem by ourselves, we need collaboration.”

Asked what a day in the life of her new job entails, Barrand laughs and says, “It starts very early!” She tries to spend “at least 30 seconds” in the morning with “my poor, but incredibly understanding, spouse” and “happy dog”, before heading to work in the early hours of the morning.

“I’m in a lot of meetings, mostly with potential donors and government organizations who want to help.” Despite her exhausting schedule, Barrand says she is continually inspired. “I’m happy if it rains outside, then I get to see a bunch of happy preschoolers walk by my door from one of our education centers since they can’t go outside. There are also times where I work in the Roxbury with the children in their classrooms. When I see the actual children I’m helping, that’s the icing on the cake.”

Mackenzie Cummings-Grady is a free lance journalist and a Correspondent for the Boston Globe Metro Desk. He attends Emerson College, and is originally from Ithaca NY.

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