Home is the Foundation

Roles: President & CEO, Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, EOHED Secretary, Chelsea City Manager

Tell me a little about where you grew up?

I grew up mostly in Chelsea, and often in non-traditional housing settings, including, at times, sharing an apartment with another family— heck, sharing a bed with another family— and being evicted from another apartment when mom could no longer afford the rent. Eventually, we got lucky, with the help of a benefactor, and were able to secure a subsidized apartment, which helped house and comfort us, and allow so many other positive benefits to then become possible.

How did that experience shape you as a person?

Housing instability was traumatic— I still have nightmares about it some 50 years later. I remember everything just getting better when we got a subsidized apartment, and that “better” allowed me to focus on my studies, my interests, my relationships, my part-time work, and my community— all of which shaped me and made me the person I am today. Without that “life saving happening” of the Chelsea Housing Authority coming to the rescue of my family, it’s hard for me to imagine ever having the same opportunities for growth, achievement, and contributions back to others.

Why is that housing important now?

Housing stability makes everything else possible. In many respects, it’s tougher today, even with all of the investment so many have made in affordable housing. The costs are higher, the needs are greater, and the process is much more difficult to navigate. The same is true today as it was back then, though, healthier families and healthier communities are made possible by healthier housing options.

“I remember everything just getting better when we got a subsidized apartment.”
Jay Ash President & CEO, Massachusetts Competitive Partnership

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