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Remaining True to Our Mission: Breaktime’s work throughout the pandemic

Updated: Jun 5

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to reflect. From “new year, new me” posts to new years resolutions, it’s a perfect time to look forward to the future as well. When we exchange our 2021 calendar for a 2022 one, our new beginning should be inspired by big aspirations and opportunities for change.

Reflecting on our 2021, Breaktime can’t help but recognize both how far we’ve come and what we have yet to achieve. In 2018, Breaktime was founded with the purpose of ending young adult homelessness in Boston. After learning that stable employment is essential to transitioning out of homelessness, co-founders Connor Schoen and Tony Shu emphasized gaining stable employment for young adults in Breaktime’s mission. At the time, it was envisioned to be a Boston-based cafe that employed people experiencing homelessness. As a social enterprise, Breaktime Cafe intended to merge its person-first mission with coffee sales, becoming a provider of stable employment to young people experiencing housing insecurity in order to reach financial and housing security.

In March of 2020, Breaktime Cafe was in the beginning stages of being constructed. However, as the pandemic saw its first ‘spike’ in cases and people were suddenly asked to “stay at home,” Breaktime’s original cafe ambitions were put on hold. Still seeking to help people experiencing homelessness in the Boston area, the Breaktime team had to re-imagine how they could stick to their original mission without a physical cafe space. As a way to continue serving young adults experiencing homelessness while also helping those most affected by the pandemic, Breaktime launched the Double Impact Initiative. This program sought to provide young adults transitional employment while simultaneously addressing food insecurity brought on by the pandemic.

During the pandemic, Forbes 30-under-30 winning Breaktime’s Double Impact Initiative was initially geared toward providing meals to healthcare workers and members of local communities who were experiencing food insecurity. In partnership with Community Works Services, Breaktime associates prepared and distributed one million meals. Doing our part to assist others during this time, Breaktime persevered through the pandemic.

Over time, the Double Impact Initiative has evolved to suit changing needs in local communities. Currently, Breaktime’s flagship program consists of two weeks of employment and financial skill building that culminates in Breaktime connecting people experiencing homelessness with local organizations at which they work for two to three months. These organizations are made up of nonprofits and small businesses in the Boston area; in this way, the Double Impact Initiative uplifts local communities while providing employment opportunities to people experiencing homelessness.

Regardless of its form, the Double Impact Initiative serves a single purpose: catalyze change. And in this regard, Breaktime has exhibited great success. Looking to the future, Breaktime is excited to continue serving its community, even as Covid-19 continues to ravage local communities. As of January 9, 2022, in the US, 60 million people have been diagnosed with Covid-19. It is also estimated that for every person who tests positive, four people carry the disease. Moreover, in the United States alone, 836 thousand people have passed away, a figure that is only increasing. The impacts of Covid-19 have been most apparent in populations that experience homelessness. Even before the emergence of the Omicron variant, which is observed to spread very quickly, 36% of people experiencing homelessness had tested positive for Covid-19 according to a Boston-based study. The same study revealed that hospitalization and mortality rates among people experiencing homelessness also tend to be greater than those of the general population. Since Omicron emerged, these figures have only worsened; only barely into the new year, various shelters across the country have already detailed rises in Covid-19 rates within their premises.

The effects of Covid-19 probably won’t be going anywhere soon, but the change that Breaktime is enacting isn’t either. In 2022, Breaktime seeks to continue refining its model, preparing to expand the extent of its involvement within the community of young adults experiencing homelessness to new heights. Since its founding, Breaktime has already made progress toward its goal of ending homelessness in Boston—progress we intend to maintain into 2022 and beyond. And with your support, as a financial contributor or a member of our audience, you can support us in this journey.

We know that the path we set out to take won’t always be easy, nor will it be predictable. We recognize that every journey has its twists and turns. But Breaktime will remain true to its mission and its core values, regardless of where the new year takes us. No matter where we end up, we look forward to updating you all about it throughout 2022!

This piece was written by Jimena Chavez (Breaktime Communications Coordinator) with support from Jacob Landau (Breaktime Communications Coordinator).

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