New Boston Initiative Aims to Help People in Recovery Succeed

On Sept. 21, Mayor Marty Walsh and the Boston Office of Recovery Services announced the launch of the Personal Advancement for Individuals in Recovery (PAIR) initiative. It’s a pilot program that tackles housing, education, and employment by granting money to individuals who are in early recovery and looking to shape up their life from substance use or addiction, are low-income or live in unstable housing—many of whom will be reentering the community from correctional facilities.

“It’s hard to maintain your recovery if you don’t have a roof over your head, a meaningful job, or opportunities for personal advancement,” said Mayor Walsh in a prepared statement. “The PAIR initiative will allow us to better support people in recovery as they get their feet on the ground. Those in recovery are taking their lives one day at a time, but we need to ensure they have access to critical services like rent, education and training. Together with our partners, and this new program, we will continue our work to end addiction in our City.”

The initiative is a partnership between the City of Boston Mayor’s Office of Recovery Services, Warren and Doris Buffett’s Letters Foundation, and the Gavin Foundation. With the help of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Services overseeing the coordination of the pilot program, the Gavin Foundation, a nonprofit that provides substance abuse education, prevention and treatment programs, will refer individuals to write letters explaining their hardships to the Letters Foundation, which writes humanitarian grants for people experiencing a crisis. Over the course of the pilot year, the Letters Foundation has committed to giving $100,000 to approved participants.

Brendan Little, policy director at the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Services, said the pilot is estimated to cover about 40 individuals at about $2,500 per person, or whatever amount is appropriate given the individual’s situation. The team of the PAIR initiative will meet throughout the pilot year to evaluate and make changes to the program as needed.

Little said that if the $100,000 was to fund a program then money can get lost with administrative costs. Funding an individual, however, means the money is more flexible and it’s easier to bundle all the costs of an individual’s needs. Also, it’s the Letters foundations’s protocol, he said. “They care about each individual’s story, that’s their vision,” said Little. He emphasized that neither the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Services or the Gavin Foundation will receive money, only the participant.

“Every single $1 of the $100,000  will go directly to someone who needs it and the way they need it,” Little said. Through the initiative, every approved applicant will also have access to workshops and resources to services that meet their needs.

Leah Hong, the associate director of Community Impact at Letters Foundation, said as of Oct. 6, one letter has been submitted, and she anticipates on seeing more letters from the Gavin Foundation soon. If a letter is picked, then the team goes forward with verifying information on the individual’s current status and shortcomings so the foundation can help accordingly.

“We want to make sure we set our clients up for success,” Hong said. On behalf of each approved applicant, the Letters Foundation will give funds to the vendors to assist on particular needs, like paying rent to their landlord or buying textbooks for their college courses.

The conversation that led to launching the PAIR initiative first started in May 2016, when the Letters Foundation approached the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Services proposing interest in helping individuals, which then the office reached out to the Gavin Foundation.

“Our investments have always been on individuals who are motivated to get back on their feet,” she said.

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