Heading Home: Helping Thousands of Greater Bostonians End Their Homelessness for 50 Years


Heading Home Wins the 2022 Non-profit Organization of the Year Award

Danielle Ferrier
CEO, Heading Home

BOSTON- Few have made an impact on families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic quite like Heading Home, a non-profit dedicated to helping individuals and families in Greater Boston exit homelessness. In the darkest days of the pandemic, many housing-insecure families on the brink became homeless after the virus wreaked havoc on the economy, and needed support with everything: from finding safe, stable shelter to procuring food, diapers, and necessities. The added stressors of a global pandemic put additional strains on support networks that were unprecedented for many families and communities. In her role as CEO of Heading Home, Danielle Ferrier, MBA, LICSW, along with Chief Development Officer Suzanne Picher doubled down to help as many people as possible during the bleakest moments of the pandemic. Taking on as many urgent problems for their community as possible, Heading Home has been there for their clients when they needed them most in countless ways.

Of course, like many shelter providers in the area, Heading Home incurred extraordinary expenses to protect and provide for the people in their programs. The pandemic forced the cancellation of many traditional fundraising events, including Heading Home’s popular annual Housewarming party. CDO Picher, faced with this sudden hurdle, pivoted and dreamed up a fundraising campaign to support their cause. This new fundraising campaign, “Heading to $1M, so others can head home,” challenged 30 leaders in the commercial real estate industry to raise $1,000,000 for Greater Bostonians navigating homelessness. Through the unwavering support and generosity of almost 400 companies and philanthropic leaders, primarily in CRE, the campaign raised $2,000,000: more than twice its initial goal.

Heading Home has successfully helped thousands of people in Greater Boston end their homelessness for nearly 50 years. Today, a leading provider of housing and support services for over 1,600 clients, Heading Home supports families and individuals alike, boldly leading the way to help children and adults leave homelessness behind.

Photo of two women at Heading Home’s Casa Nueva Vida division
Photo: Heading Home’s Casa Nueva Vida division (photo courtesy of Heading Home)

Heading Home’s approach to ending homelessness is unique – supporting men, women, and children of all ages, from infants to the elderly. Many providers focus on one subset – families or adult individuals, but because Heading Home supports both, the organization can shepherd parents as they navigate children aging out of the family system, support single adults becoming parents, and older adults as they age in place. Their frontline staff practices evidence-based case management strategies that support clients from the moment they enter its programs. In instances where Heading Home does not offer a specialized service, case managers outsource to partner agencies who may specialize in that area such as substance use, legal system, healthcare, and mental health providers. For 17 years running, Heading Home’s permanent housing retention rates have been 90%+. Last year, 97% of Heading Home clients remained housed after one year.

The most recent notable development under Ferrier’s leadership is that she and Heading Home have saved Casa Nueva Vida, a nonprofit that serves Latinx families in Boston and Lawrence, and whose mission aligns closely with Heading Home. On the verge of shutting down, Casa Nueva Vida, the only Massachusetts homeless shelter network with a largely Spanish-speaking staff will continue operations under a new partnership with Heading Home. Heading Home now handles financial and administrative work for properties formerly managed by Casa Nueva Vida, and on July 1, 2022, Casa Nueva Vida (CNV), a former shelter provider for primarily Spanish-speaking families in Boston and Lawrence, became a division of Heading Home. This mission-aligned move unites two organizations that have independently been working to end homelessness for decades. With 83% of Heading Home’s clients identifying as non-white and/or Hispanic/Latinx, both Heading Home and CNV support similarly diverse families. Their combined work includes advocating for many subsets of the population, including those significantly marginalized, from an equity and access perspective.

Photo of a woman in a kitchen at Heading Home’s Casa Nueva Vida
Photo: Heading Home’s Casa Nueva Vida division (photo courtesy of Heading Home)

With a 34% increase in households, Heading Home’s mission delivery has expanded – in both numbers of family households as well as the geographic addition of Lawrence, a high-needs, gateway community that we are delighted to support. While prioritizing the preservation of CNV’s cultural identity, the combined teams are advancing efforts to end homelessness in Greater Boston and Lawrence, while learning from each other’s best practices to successfully serve clients.

Ferrier has more than 25 years of experience in the human services industry. She holds two master’s degrees: Master of Business Administration from the Simmons School of Management and Master of Social Work from Boston University. She was most recently the Deputy Commissioner for Clinical Services & Program Operations at the Department of Children & Families. Ferrier holds the highest level of independent licensure in social work (LICSW) and was a practicing clinical therapist for 15 years. Her training and primary practice are with “high-risk” children, youth, and families with a clinical specialty in trauma and attachment. Her programs at Rediscovery specialized primarily in “aging out youth,” and unaccompanied homeless youth, and she developed an innovative program, YouthHarbors, based in high schools and designed to prevent unaccompanied high school students from becoming homeless or to rapidly house these youth when they are homeless.

Ferrier teaches at the Boston University School of Social Work in the Policy Department and has provided expert consultation on cases related to the clinical impact of foster care and programs designed to work with young-parenting adults who have experienced trauma and substance abuse. She has trained nationally on topics related to child welfare, homeless youth, and education. Ferrier has served on many task forces designed to evaluate and address the issues facing homeless, unaccompanied youth, and youth involved in state care.

When asked about its five-year growth plan by the Boston Real Estate Times, Heading Home says it will continue to expand its footprint of permanent supportive housing for families and individuals experiencing homelessness in the coming five years, in accordance with the organization’s strategic plan.

All the 2022 Excellence Awards winners were honored in the award ceremony at the Boston Real Estate Times Excellence Awards gala on Oct. 6, at the Burlington Marriott Hotel in Burlington, MA. For more information on Heading Home, please visit their website at www.headinghomeinc.org