A Look Back at Our Grantmaking Programs: PAIR Initiative

In fall 2017, the City of Boston, Letters Foundation, and Gavin Foundation announced the launch of the PAIR Initiative (Personal Advancement for Individuals in Recovery), the first public-private partnership of its kind. Letters Foundation pledged $100K to support individuals connected to services at Gavin Foundation or the City of Boston‘s PAATHS Program, providing small but meaningful grants for education, housing, and workforce advancement. This addresses a longstanding gap in the recovery continuum of care. We remain grateful to our partners for their continued dedication to fight the stigmas associated with addiction, and their unwavering care for individuals they serve.

Below, Theresa Young, Director of PAATHS (Providing Access to Addiction Treatment Hope and Support) at the City of Boston, reflects on her experience with the initiative:

It wasn’t about the money. It was about hope.

PAATHS is the City of Boston’s central intake for all types of addiction treatment. Over 14,000 walk-ins came through the door in 2019. Some came in for the first-time; others for what seemed like countless times. Many who walk into PAATHS seek treatment referrals or access to harm reduction supplies. Others come to seek out someone who’ll listen without judgement as they try to achieve lasting abstinence, and someone who’ll accept them just as they are, even if that is in their worst moment.

PAATHS serves chronically homeless drug users. Many are not originally from Boston but are now homeless here, living outside, and doing their best to survive day to day. It was evident that our chronically homeless drug users had far more barriers and struggles than our more resourced drug users. Time and time again, access to housing emerged as an insurmountable barrier. Individuals with the toughest circumstances would graduate from residential recovery homes or complete intensive outpatient programs, but without a safe space to call home, abstinence started to feel out of reach.

During my initial meeting with my first PAIR client, I was describing the nature of the program, and my client stopped me abruptly. They said, “so you mean I will have somewhere to live after I complete treatment?” They then went on to talk about the numerous treatment programs they had completed, only to be sent back to the streets without a plan, or stuck on a housing list with long wait-times and no guarantees. Knowing they had a safety net with PAIR, people started to feel like they had a real shot at building a life away from the streets. One by one, we saw people start to make continuous, repeated, attempts at treatment. Little by little, they got farther along their recovery journeys.

Many individuals made it into long term residential housing for the first time. So far, we have helped people obtain licenses, which allowed them to access gainful employment (some even as city employees), and develop the tools they needed to go back to work or go on job interviews. Importantly, we’ve been able to provide several grants to cover a few months of sober housing rent, so individuals can get back on their feet and continue building life in long term recovery. PAIR funding provides a sense of hope for individuals that they will have the opportunity to thrive, and not fear that their hard work could be disrupted by another episode of homelessness.

A long-time client who had been homeless and addicted for over 10 years finally got to a residential treatment program. When we were discussing his next steps, he said, “As long as I have a roof over my head and a place where I belong, I will be OK.” That client was able to use PAIR to reach his goal. He is now gainfully employed, has maintained abstinence, and is going to start leading his own AA/NA commitment in the coming months. When I asked what the difference was with this time in treatment, he answered simply: “This time, I had hope.” I don’t doubt for a second that PAIR was instrumental in providing that.

Learn more about our PAIR Initiative here.