02.10.22

Keeping Warm in Winter

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PHOTO BY DARLENE DEVITA
This January, Chelsea and much of the Northeast has faced bitterly cold winter weather, leaving the most vulnerable in our community at the greatest risk. Many of our community members find themselves struggling to pay their heating bills as utility prices continue to skyrocket. This combined with poorly maintained properties due to landlord negligence often leave tenants to scramble and find alternative, often dangerous, ways to keep their families warm and safe.
Our housing team has seen this story play out time and time again in Chelsea. Late last year, Dario Camacho, La Colaborativa’s Housing Organizer, met a longtime Chelsea resident, Fatou, through a door-knocking campaign. It was soon discovered that she had spent the past 4 years, ever since her husband passing, without heat in her apartment, and relied on small space heaters to make it through the cold winter nights. Despite fearing retaliation from her landlord, she made dozens of calls requesting that her heat and several other code violations in her apartment were repaired. Fatou’s landlord never responded even as the temperatures dropped.
That’s when La Colaborativa stepped in.
After a full inspection of her home and continued silence from her landlord, Fatou’s case was brought to City Hall. Within a month, everything from the heat to a persistent pest problem was resolved. “It changed her life,” said Dario. “We were also able to connect her and her family to our other services; now they all have a safe place to live, a job to help pay the bills, and the knowledge that we’re looking out for them.”
This is only half the story in the crisis of staying warm in the winter. Utilities, especially oil and gas heat, continue to go up and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to prevent members of our community from accessing stable jobs that pay a living wage. La Colaborativa is deeply grateful to the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley for a generous $25,000 donation to provide cash payments and direct support to those who need help paying their utilities and other housing costs.
La Colaborativa’s on-the-ground approach and deep roots in our community make a difference in the lives of countless community members each year. For every success story, we know there are hundreds more who need us as a trusted resource to stay safe and healthy, today and every day. With your support and donations, we can help those who need it most. Please consider donating to keep our community warm this winter.
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