By Erica Schwarz
Have you ever worried about losing your housing or how you will pay for it? This kind of worry was all too familiar to Susan Mitchell. In 2005 her reasonably priced apartment building was converted to condos that were priced well out of her reach. “I was panicked because I didn’t want to have to move really far away from Waltham, where I was born and raised, to find an affordable place.”
At the time, Susan was desperately looking for steady work but could only find temporary employment, which further limited her ability to secure decent housing. Fortunately, Susan was able to move into one of ten permanently affordable apartments owned by WATCH. Soon afterwards, she found a full time job at a local company.
Susan pays a modest rent based on her income, which is not high enough to cover the typical Waltham rent. She is also active in advocating for more affordable housing in Waltham and in the State, through her regular participation with WATCH’s Affordable Housing Committee.
Susan’s story illustrates the role that the WATCH community development corporation plays in the local community. WATCH is a nonprofit organization founded by Waltham residents in 1988. In our effort to make Waltham as strong as it can be, we develop and promote affordable housing, provide adult education and leadership development, and support local residents in becoming civically active on issues they care about.
On one hand, WATCH provides services in order to meet local needs: Through a partnership with Brandeis University, we provide assistance to tenants facing urgent housing problems. As a result of our 2008 merger with Breaking Barriers, we’ve expanded our English and community knowledge courses for local immigrants. We also offer certified first time homebuyer classes and provide affordably priced apartments to families who cannot afford the high rents in Waltham.
On the other hand, WATCH engages our members and those who benefit from our services to get involved and work for positive changes in our community. A few examples of this kind of work are: WATCH’s Affordable Housing Committee, which is focused on increasing the amount of housing in Waltham that is affordable to our local population. WATCH’s Breaking Barriers Advisory Council is working on ways to improve supports for local immigrants and ensure that this vital sector of our community has the skills to fully participate. WATCH’s Diversity and Anti-Racism Committee shares information in order to learn more about our City’s rich immigrant history and current diverse population, and to help each other take advantage of opportunities to fill local leadership roles.
WATCH will be using this space in an ongoing way to share information and participate in the online conversation of community issues. We welcome input from community members regarding topics you might like WATCH staff and members to write on. We also invite you to participation in any of WATCH’s programs or committees! To learn more, call 781-891-6689 x 0, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.watchcdc.org.
Erica Schwarz is the Executive Director of WATCH, a non profit community development corporation with offices at 517 Moody Street in Waltham. Ms. Schwarz served as WATCH’s Community Organizer from 2001 – 2006.