Housing, Shelter

Abby Kelley Foster House, Inc.

aka Abby's House

Worcester, MA


The mission of Abby's House is to provide shelter and affordable housing, as well as advocacy and support services, to homeless, battered, and low-income women, with and without children. Opened in 1976, Abby's House was one of the country's first homeless shelters for women. Since then, we've expanded our mission to include 79 units of housing and are Worcester's largest provider of affordable, supportive housing specifically designed to meet the needs of marginalized women and children. Since our founding, Abby's House has helped more than 14,000 women and children reclaim and rebuild their lives.

Ruling Year


Executive Director

Ms Stephanie Page

Main Address

52 High Street 52 High Street

Worcester, MA 01609 USA


Shelter, homeless, housing, women, domestic violence, children





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Other Housing, Shelter N.E.C. (L99)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (P01)

Victims' Services (P62)

IRS Filing Requirement

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Social Media


Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

Annually, Abby's House serves hundreds of women each year, providing them with shelter, housing & advocacy. Our short-term objectives are "to answer the door, one knock at a time" by serving the women who turn to us in need, helping them address the issues that lead to their housing displacement & providing shelter, housing and/or advocacy as needed. The gap between livable wages and affordable housing is increasing at an alarming rate. To afford a 1-bedroom rental home at Fair Market Rent ($1,425/month for a 1-bedroom unit) making minimum wage ($12/hour), a woman would have to work 91 hours each week in Massachusetts just to afford her rent, never mind having money remaining for other expenses like food, clothing, medications, insurance, child care and transportation. As a result, hundreds of women need to access low-income housing programs in order to have a safe and affordable place to live, but - the wait for public housing can be as long as 8-10 years and many wait-lists.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

1 2 3 10

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Abby's House

Where we work

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

Our long-term goals are to end the cycle of poverty and violence and to provide an environment in which these women can rebuild and reclaim their lives. Every past resident and shelter guest is invited to stay involved in the Annette Rafferty Women's Empowerment Center - attending group meals, participating in activities and using our internet-ready computers - and many do! The success of the individualized programming is based upon meeting its objectives: *100% of women who come to the shelter or low-income housing units participate in an intake interview with our Advocate and develop an Individualized Empowerment Plan. *98% of families with children will be connected with appropriate day care and/or educational institutions. *85% of guests and residents will make consistent progress on their Empowerment Plan goals. *85% of guests leave the shelter or transitional housing for permanent housing.

At Abby's House, our focus is to provide homeless, battered and low-income women -- and their children -- with SOMEPLACE. Someplace to sleep, to eat, to bathe; someplace in which to feel safe; to feel heard and supported; someplace to regain their footing on the path to independence. Our unique combination of empowerment, hospitality and advocacy has helped countless women take the next step in their journey. We continue to help women regain their footing on the path to independence. The vast majority of our women move into permanent housing, either within Abby's House supportive housing programs or in the community, after successfully achieving the goals on their Empowerment Plans. Given their traumatic histories and the nature of the problems that lead to their homelessness, this is truly remarkable. Abby's House was founded in 1976 by a large collaborative of women, committed to supporting other women, who grew a grass-roots response to address the critical issue of homelessness that was emerging as a community need in Worcester. It was this dedicated group of volunteers, led by Annette Rafferty, who did the outreach, the planning and the fund-raising to open our shelter. Today, we are fortunate that this spirit of volunteerism continues - involving more than 200 women each year. Our mission is, "to provide shelter and affordable housing, as well as advocacy and support services, to homeless, battered and low-income women, with our without children." In fact, we were one of the first shelters in the United States designed specifically to address the needs of women. We provide a warm, welcoming and safe place for women who are homeless. Within our walls and with our support, a woman can recognize her own inner strengths and abilities. We listen with respect and without judgment, and encourage her to be as self-sufficient as possible given her individual needs and circumstances. Each woman living with us is assigned her own Advocate, who helps identify realistic goals and tools she needs to achieve them. We empower women to access the resources they need to succeed, such as higher education, job training, affordable housing and child care. We also provide linkages to critical services for every guest and resident. We continue to help women regain their footing on the path to independence answering the door - one knock at a time.

Over the past 44 years, we have developed a multi-pronged approach to address homelessness: 1. We adopt a holistic approach to sheltering and housing women. By providing each woman with an Advocate to help her identify realistic goals and the steps needed to achieve them, each woman is met where she is. Using an individualized approach allows the Advocate to encourage, mentor and empower each woman to implement these steps on her own so that she builds self-confidence and develops a new set of skills in the process. 2. Through our Speaker's Bureau and rigorous communications and outreach program - which includes our newsletter, e-news blasts, and social posts - we educate the community about homelessness, poverty, domestic violence and other issues that impact the women we serve. In doing so, we help create a larger base of support for the work we do. 3. Staff and board members at Abby's House are active in the community, participating in coalitions, public and legislative forums, sitting on panels, and informing and affecting social policy. We have found that treating each woman as an individual allows her to see her situation more clearly, recognize her strengths and challenges as she moves forward, and create a realistic plan for her to regain her independence and self-esteem. We receive our operating support from a variety of sources including: 48% from individuals, corporations, civic and religious groups and corporations/businesses; 25% from fees; 18% events and earned income (Thrift Shop), and 8% from donated goods and services, and change in beneficial interest. This diversification of sources allows us to be more sustainable as we are not heavily reliant on any one stream of revenue. Our lean budget is due, in part, to the involvement of over 200 volunteers per year, who essentially save the organization an estimated $579,000 in expenses, based on the value of volunteer time according to Independent Sector. While this is beneficial to Abby's House it is also beneficial to the individuals who support the organization through the donation of their time and talents. Their involvement promotes civic responsibility by providing volunteer opportunities for a diverse group of college students and community members who work together to help women regain their footing on the path to independence. Developing and maintaining positive working relationships with local professionals and organizations is vital for effective service and advocacy, and to maximize donations through non-duplication of services. Our Advocates are well-versed about the resources in the area and provide referrals and linkages to the services each woman needs to get her life back on track.

Members of the Board of Directors, volunteers, and core staff regularly monitor the progress and effectiveness of the program through direct observation and evaluation of the data. The Housing staff meeting with each resident regularly to discuss their status in relation to the goals set out in their service plan. Effective, individualized advocacy strategies are developed in these meetings. The key indicators we will use to develop a baseline for our success are: *The number of women who are provided with shelter or low-income housing *The number of women who move out successfully into independent housing situations *The number of external referrals we make and *The number of women who meet the goals as outlined on their Individualized Service Plan. We are developing a baseline of agency data in relation to our referral goals and tracking and are in the process of reviewing available client software to formalize and record our Empowerment Plan tracking and evaluation activities to improve workflow. This will be in addition to the demographics and case notes that are currently kept through a combination of technology and hard copy records. We are also working to develop a self-evaluation tool and a client satisfaction tool to help inform our decisions and activities focus going forward.

With homelessness on the rise and the need for safe, affordable housing greater than ever, a $16.2 million renovation was completed in 2019 to ensure that women who are facing homelessness have access to safe and supportive housing that’s specifically designed to meet their needs for years to come. The renovated 56 single room occupancy (SRO) unit building is now in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and includes an elevator, accessible entrance, three accessible bedrooms and accessible bathrooms on each residential floor. Electrical, plumbing, heating, and windows have all been updated and residential kitchens were added to each floor. Shared laundry rooms were also added on the second and third floors. Within the next year we hope to continue to strengthen our data on the women and children who come through our doors looking for shelter and housing - tracking the issues that brought them to us, the success of the programs run through the Annette Rafferty Women's Empowerment Center, vouchers used in our Thrift Shop, and success rates of those who have moved on to permanent housing.

External Reviews


Champions in Action 2009

Citizen's Bank

Affiliations & Memberships

Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance (MHSA) 2012

Mass Coalition for the Homeless 2012

Massachusetts Nonprofit Network 2013


Abby Kelley Foster House, Inc.

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

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  • Forms 990 for 2018, 2017 and 2016
  • A Pro report is also available for this organization.

See what's included

Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?


Organizational Demographics

In order to support nonprofits and gain valuable insight for the sector, GuideStar worked with D5—a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy—in creating a questionnaire. This section is a voluntary questionnaire that empowers organizations to share information on the demographics of who works in and leads organizations. To protect the identity of individuals, we do not display sexual orientation or disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff. Any values displayed in this section are percentages of the total number of individuals in each category (e.g. 20% of all Board members for X organization are female).

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Race & Ethnicity

Sexual Orientation

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We do not display disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff.

Diversity Strategies

We track retention of staff, board, and volunteers across demographic categories
We track income levels of staff, senior staff, and board across demographic categories
We track the age of staff, senior staff, and board
We track the diversity of vendors (e.g., consultants, professional service firms)
We have a diversity committee in place
We have a diversity manager in place
We have a diversity plan
We use other methods to support diversity