The Fenway Community Development Corporation (CDC) held its annual meeting virtually on April 7, where the organization’s successes over the past year were celebrated and neighbors heard an update from keynote speaker Ellen LaPointe of Fenway Health. Mayor Michelle Wu tuned in as well to speak on the importance of affordable housing across the city.
Fenway CDC Executive Director Leah Camhi presented the Year in Review video, which showed all of the CDC’s accomplishments over the past year, which include things like providing food, PPE, and rental assistance to residents, as well as continuing to create affordable housing in the neighborhood.
Construction on the Burbank Terrace project is set to start this summer, and 97 units at Newcastle Saranac have undergone renovations to bring them up to date for residents. The Fenway CDC has also been an advocate for improvements to the #55 bus, and has partnered with local colleges and universities on career programming.
Up for re-election were board members Sonya Bhabhalia, Nilda Hughes, Mia Jean-Sicard, Sarah Jenness, and Joanne McKenna, all of whom were re-elected.
District 8 City Councilor Kenzie Bok, Fenway Cares, and Kris Anderson were given this year’s Community Service Awards for their dedication and service to the Fenway community.
Cassie White, a community organizer for the Fenway CDC, talked about ways people can get involved with the organization through its various efforts in community organizing, resident services, housing, and more.
According to a slide presented, membership in the Fenway CDC provides perks like “deals and discounts at local Fenway shops; opportunities to build community; and access to engaging neighborhood events.”
Keynote speaker Ellen LaPointe, CEO of Fenway Health, spoke about Fenway Health’s work and goals, saying that “since 1971…Fenway Health has stayed true to our original mission, which was to provide healthcare to people who could not get it anywhere else.”
She explained that Fenway Health began as a “drop in center” that was located in the basement of a Huntington Ave. building and only open on Thursday nights. Volunteers saw patients in the basement that featured medical equipment donated by a doctor from the Back Bay.
“Today, we provide care to more than 34,000 patients,” LaPointe said, and during the worst part of the pandemic, Fenway Health saw patients in 38 states via Telehealth.
Additionally, “about half of our patients identify as LGBTQIA+, and about 4200 of them are transgender or gender diverse,” she said.
In 2020, Fenway Health participated in COVID-19 research, as well as “formally committed to becoming an anti-racist organization,” LaPointe said.
A five-year strategic plan has been created for racial equity action.
“We are really proactively and intentionally working to transform our systems, our policies, our procedures, and our protocols to center race and equity in everything that we do to eliminate the disparities and inequities that have historically existed in the services that we provide and the people that we reach and the outcomes that we achieve,” she said.
A partnership between Fenway Health and the Fenway CDC has been announced—called the Fenway/Kenmore Community Collective, it is the “largest community engagement in the Fenway/Kenmore neighborhood in recent memory,” LaPointe said.
She said that the partnership is funded by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and has three goals that were determined based on a recent community needs assessment of the neighborhood. The first goal is to “increase the financial stability of residents” because more than half of survey takers responded saying that they “are concerned about having enough money,” she said.
The second goal is ensuring that all residents are able to access nutritious food, as one in four people said that they “have trouble affording nutritious food.”
The third goal is to improve access to healthcare, as one in five respondents said that they “have unmet healthcare needs.”
Mayor Michelle Wu then spoke about creating more affordable housing in the city.
“A major priority of our administration is seeing, funding, and creating affordable housing as the foundation for our recovery from this pandemic,” Wu said.
She said that with the budget, which was revealed this week, the goal is to “put more than $350 million into a three year investment in housing affordability and housing stability across operating, capital, and federal recovery funds.”
She also said that the administration is aiming to take an “intersectional approach,” as housing is closely related to transportation equity, access, and reliability.
Additionally. Wu spoke about the fact that many buildings in the city need to be retrofitted for climate resiliency, which is also an important factor when it comes to housing to keep residents safe and healthy in the future.
“Housing is also deeply connected to our education system and our economy,” Wu said. “It is the number one challenge I hear from employers in our city.”
For more information about the Fenway CDC, including its programming and organizing, visit fenwaycdc.org.