Local mom steps up to help unhoused family after 25 Investigates delves into shelter crisis

After 25 Investigates revealed hundreds of local homeless families with children are stuck on a waitlist and unable to get into emergency shelters, a local mother has stepped up to help another mom scrambling to pay for a hotel room to keep her daughter safe.

The surging migrant crisis and a lack of affordable housing have overwhelmed the Massachusetts emergency shelter system, leaving thousands of parents like Jessica Hermenegildo struggling.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow,” Hermenegildo told Kavanaugh in a 25 Investigates story last month. “I’m at the end of my resources. I don’t have anything else left.”

The single mom and her daughter are homeless — paying night by night for a Worcester County hotel room.

Hermenegildo said she’s struggling to access housing assistance due to missing paperwork.

But as 25 Investigates first reported in February, the waitlist for families in need of emergency shelter grew to 729 families as of February 20.

As of March 12, it grew to 757.

The waitlist includes long-term Massachusetts residents and newly arriving migrants.

Cathy O’Grady, of Watertown, said when she heard Hermenegildo’s story, she wanted to help.

“I was getting ready for work and I saw the story about the mom,” O’Grady said. “A single mom that is homeless, living in the hotel. And I knew that I needed to do something.”

O’Grady started a nonprofit foundation, Sofia’s Angels, in honor of her late mom, who she said embraced everybody. Her nonprofit has left blankets and toys around parks for anyone to take, paid off layaways and grocery bills, and even left cash around stores.

“Our mission is to do random acts of kindness and also help the less fortunate,” she said.

So, O’Grady contacted 25 Investigates asking to connect with Hermenegildo.

“I’m very crafty,” O’Grady said. “So I made a chunky blanket and I raffled it off.”

O’Grady said her foundation was able to give Hermenegildo over $600 to pay for her hotel room.

While O’Grady said she knows she can’t solve the state’s crisis of homelessness, she says she believes it’s on everyone to do something.

“Because they feel helpless,” she said. “They feel like there’s not anybody that cares about them. They feel like nobody sees them.”

“They believe in themselves,” she said. “They just need a hand up.”

Hermenegildo said she is grateful for the help. 25 Investigates is also trying to connect her with the state to reassess her case. O’Grady provided Boston 25 News with her email, Sofiasangelsfoundation@yahoo.com, in case anyone needs assistance from her nonprofit.

Meanwhile, the Healey administration has included housing investments in its budget proposal, including:

  • $219 million for the Massachusetts rental voucher program: A 22% increase.
  • Raising the homebase benefit from $20,000 to $45,000 to provide over three years in rental assistance
  • And a long-term, housing bond bill that she says will help create new affordable housing units

Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Boston 25 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch Boston 25 News NOW