Building homes, careers, and futures uplifts our community.
Over the past 50+ years, we’ve been committed to meeting the ever-changing needs of community members who face systemic barriers to opportunities. We’ve expanded access to affordable housing throughout the region, helped individuals and families to stay in their homes and reach their goals, and prepared youth and adults of all ages with the skills they need to succeed in the workforce.
In partnership with our residents, students, program participants, donors, and friends, we’re creating equitable communities in Cambridge and beyond. Here’s how.
“Right before I came to Just A Start I was at a crossroads, confused on what or where my future would be. The name means what it means – we are here just for a new start.”
– Russell Liu, Biomedical Careers Program graduate
Helping Residents Stay and Thrive in Cambridge
Cambridge is in the midst of a housing crisis, and the challenge of finding an affordable rental apartment places a huge financial burden on many residents. The median rent for a 2-bedroom apartment is $2,900, and a resident would need to earn an hourly wage of $60 to comfortably afford that apartment — more than four times the current state minimum wage.
Just A Start offers affordable apartments to individuals and families all across the city, ensuring that residents from diverse backgrounds and income levels can stay, live, work, and thrive in Cambridge.
I love Cambridge, I really do. I love my building, my neighbors, my management team. I love where I live.
In this building, we’re real close. It’s just in passing, or we go visit each other, or when it’s really nice we sit outside. There’s always something to do, always somewhere to go, a melting pot of different cultures. When you live with somebody and they live above you or next door to you, you’re going to interact with them, and then when you’ve known them for 11 or 12 years, they’re more than neighbors, really. They’re more like family. I really know my neighbors. I make a point of knowing my neighbors and watching out for them. We all do. We’re really tight in this building. The building is peaceful. I feel totally safe here.
I know if there’s anything I need, I’ll call Just A Start and they’ll accommodate me. And if they can’t, they’ll direct me in the right direction where I can find help I might need. They’re good to me, they always have been.
Keeping Homes Permanently Affordable
As demand has increased for homes in Cambridge, home prices have skyrocketed, and incomes haven’t kept up. The median price for a single family home in Cambridge is $1,650,000, placing the goal of homeownership far out of reach for the majority of Cambridge residents.
Owning a home helps families build wealth and stability, and communities are stronger when people have the opportunity to live securely and permanently. We can’t control the housing market, but we can still help make homeownership more accessible.
Working in partnership with the City of Cambridge, we preserve, renovate, and develop permanently affordable homes to give more families the opportunity to become homeowners.
I am a Cambridge resident, business owner, a single mom, and I make a living as a writer and editor. Thanks to the Cambridge Affordable Housing Program, I am also a homeowner.
I would not have been able to purchase a home in Cambridge if it were not for the program. By now, my child and I would have moved away, because rent is also too high. In Cambridge (as in many other cities), the middle and lower classes have been priced out. This means that Cambridge risks losing ordinary people like me, people who are making an investment in their homes by contributing to and participating in the community. I’m not here to make a lot of money and then move away — I’m here to live.
I believe I contribute to my community in strong, positive ways. I love meeting and getting to know my neighbors. We check in on elderly neighbors. We offer to purchase groceries and supplies when going to the store. I sweep our stairs and the sidewalk, plant flowers around the tree in front of our building, and buy food and other items from local shops. In doing these things, I am not amazing. I am an ordinary person who takes pride in her home, who is making an investment in her home. Doing this is a gift given to me by the Cambridge Affordable Housing Program.
– A Cambridge affordable homeowner
Supporting Diverse Talent and Unlocking New Career Possibilities
In an area where 75% of adults have college degrees, it can be very challenging for residents in low-wage industries to find employment opportunities for growth and increased earnings. While there are benefits to living in a highly-skilled region, residents with lower levels of education systemically struggle to access quality jobs. Even residents with higher levels of education from other countries also experience similar challenges, as their prior accomplishments and long work histories are often not recognized by employers in the United States.
We’re well-positioned to make a difference, situated in the heart of the nation’s leading region for life sciences and one of its Top Ten tech markets. Our adult career training programs benefit both job seekers and employers: workers who have been widely underrepresented in the life sciences and IT industries sharpen their skills and gain critical access to quality career pathways, while employers tap into a qualified and mature workforce strengthened by diversity.
Russell Liu transitioned from a business background to a pathway in the life sciences through the Biomedical Careers Program. After earning the distinction of class valedictorian, Russell opted to continue his education by enrolling in the Biomedical BA/Master’s track at Northeastern University and interned at MIT, focusing on Bio-research Process Development.
“Right before I came to Just A Start I was at a crossroads, confused on what or where my future would be. All I knew was that I had developed an interest in science, which is a completely different path from what I had been doing before. I tried working at different places including pharmacies and hospitals, none of which were a good fit until I joined Just A Start. The name means what it means – we are here just for a new start.
To me the most important thing at this stage of my life is not just getting good grades or finding a good job, instead it is also finding and relying on a supporting and empowering place which points me to the correct direction with patience and care. Just A Start is the place. Being an immigrant in a new country is difficult. I realized a diverse community of people who I can communicate and make friends with was even more important to me personally than the intensity in any training and education. The program certainly helped me with transitioning to be an immigrant in this country.”
– Russell Liu, Biomedical Careers Program 2019 Valedictorian
Lifting Barriers to Education and Creating Career Pathways
Young adults who have left school are often defined by their deficits, but we’re committed to their potential. Traditional high school models don’t work for every student, and young people who are also parenting or helping to support their family can face difficulties remaining enrolled in school. No matter what a young person may be struggling with, we’re ready to help them develop their leadership and life skills and earn their educational credentials.
All youth deserve opportunities to pursue their goals, whether they’ve left school before graduating or need more support making the transition into post-secondary education or a career pathway. There are about 7,000 young people in Boston who aren’t working or engaged in school, and we’re here to offer them a new, supportive start.
Just A Start YouthBuild is a full-time comprehensive youth development program that helps young people reclaim their education, gain job skills, and become leaders in their communities.
“I came to Just A Start YouthBuild after leaving high school because my experience with the public school education system didn’t work for a number of reasons. YouthBuild has given me not only the academic skills and preparedness I’ve been needing but also real-life lessons to prepare me for success in the world. The program staff really care. It was a new experience having people not look at me based on all that I had encountered in my life but understand the core of who I really am.
So far through YouthBuild, I’ve been able to gain my Retail Industry Fundamental Certification through the National Retail Federation and that was one of the biggest accomplishments of my life besides having my son. Now I am looking ahead to getting my High School Equivalency Certificate.
During the pandemic, I found myself in a tough situation having lost my job and my housing. Staff at Just A Start YouthBuild jumped to action and provided me and my family financial support. They also secured us stable affordable housing through one of their properties. Now I have a roof over my head. I was able to find another job and now work full-time cleaning and sterilizing at a pharmaceutical company. I’m doing important essential work that is keeping people safe and I am learning so much. Thanks to YouthBuild, I can come back to a home to process my thoughts in a safe environment to work on goals and plan for the future.”
– YouthBuild 2021 Student