By Joshua Qualls

When Maria Sanchez first moved to Boston from New York in 1973, Mission Hill had a lot of problems. Now, she said, the neighborhood has changed from night to day. She believes it is on the right path.

“Nothing worries me these days,” she said. She qualified the statement by cautioning that there will always be a need for affordable housing.

After graduating from college, Sanchez, 83, lived in the former Mission Main development and worked in the welfare department as a social worker.

At the time, her husband used bed frames to block the windows for peace of mind. He feared break-ins. Although he worried about potential danger, Sanchez felt safe.

“It was very difficult in the projects in those days,” she says. “He tried to protect me and the kids, so I let him do whatever.”

Sanchez began working in community activism as she saw injustices around her. She focused her advocacy on affordable housing. While some people in the community worry about the new, transient student population, she sees economic potential benefits.

Sanchez retired from the Boston Juvenile Court in 2001. She is now the president of the Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services’ board of directors. She lives in an affordable housing facility named after her and her career of activism.

She sees herself as just a concerned resident now, spending her time with grandkids and other children in the community. She has done a toy drive for the community every Christmas since 1978.

“There is no better thing to do than to see a child smiling,” she said.

About this project 

The Scope’s student journalists spoke with community members in Mission Hill. #MissionHill100 is a collection of their stories. 

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