A Home for Hope:
Retired professor advocates for Boston residents
by Nanette Cormier
Few things rank as high as a good home in determining what will make a good life. For nearly forty years, UMass Boston has provided just that sort of solid and productive home for retired Associate Professor Elaine Werby. What’s more, Werby’s university residence as a teacher and scholar has a similar impact for many Boston families.
|Retired professor Elaine Werby (left) and colleague Michelle Von Vogler Rojas|
Beginning in the early 1970s, first as a professor of community planning and human services in the College of Public and Community Service (CPCS) and, then, as a researcher at the Center for Social Policy (CSP), Werby’s professional focus has been to ensure that Boston’s citizens, particularly those from low income backgrounds, have access to good homes. Being a part of what she calls an “extraordinary and collaborative faculty” has offered her a solid base to contribute toward this goal.
Recently, Werby had these thoughts in mind when she decided to designate the CSP as a beneficiary of her life insurance policy. “UMass Boston has been an important place to me,” she says and that it felt right to direct this gift to a mission about which she cares deeply.
A social worker by training, Werby’s early career working with low-income populations and nonprofit service organizations augmented her expertise on social service delivery and public housing. Her keen ability to connect research to practice was widely recognized. Twice she was appointed by Massachusetts governors to serve on the commonwealth’s mortgage board and she served as chair of both Family Services of Greater Boston and the Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly. She came to CPCS in the early 1970’s to offer a practitioner’s perspective to students and relished that role until she retired in 1993.
After a brief hiatus, she returned to the Center for Social Policy as a Senior Research Fellow where she continues today. Over the years she has been involved in a number of the center’s major housing studies as well as research on the utilization of food stamps in Massachusetts and the effects of welfare reform on nonprofit agencies.
Werby continues to be as engaged as ever, working part time on the evaluation of the HOPE VI revitalization program in two Boston Housing Authority developments. HOPE VI is a plan by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to revitalize public housing projects into mixed-income developments. An exemplary precursor and inspiration to the HOPE VI model was the Columbia Point Housing Project which in 1984 was turned over to private management and redeveloped into the Harbor Point Apartments.
The Center for Social Policy team’s role is to evaluate the process of the revitalization effort in two public housing projects, one in Roslindale and one in South Boston, now transitioning from public to private ownership. The goal of the HOPE VI Program, ultimately, is to transform the physical and social environment by providing new housing and community services that meet the needs of the low income residents.
Werby believes that the CSP, whose mission is to “provide expertise on poverty policy, policies and practices that reduce social and economic inequities,” brings unique expertise to her project and numerous others it oversees. She emphasizes that the center’s approach stands out among policy research organizations because it engages persons who have the lived experience of difficult economic and social conditions in generating evidence-based research.
She is particularly excited that next fall the CSP will celebrate twenty years of bridging the worlds of research, policy, and practice to address the root causes of economic hardship and social exclusion. An anniversary event, Honoring Leaders in Social and Economic Justice, will be hosted on October 17th.
It’s not surprising that Elaine Werby will be honored as one of those “lifelong leaders” at the occasion.
If you would like to join Elaine in making a gift of life insurance or other asset, please contact Carolyn Flynn, director of gift planning, UMass Foundation at 774.455.7206.