SDC was founded in 1996 by a group of Somali Americans, who had initially come to the Boston area to pursue higher education. As Somali refugees began fleeing the Civil War and arriving in Boston, these dedicated people came together to form the Somali Development Center. The organization started out working solely on housing matters, but soon expanded to cover other critically needed services, and serve other African communities. SDC was the first African social services organization in Boston.
Today SDC takes a thorough approach to meeting client need with culturally sensitive programs and services. The Road to Economic Self Sufficiency (RESS) and Somali Women Rising (SWR) are comprehensive programs which focus on breaking down barriers for young adults and women who, given the correct support and guidance, have the greatest potential to take advantage of opportunities and thrive in America. Other core services include housing assistance, health care and public benefits, support for citizenship preparation, English language, basic literacy instruction and employment training for youth and adults, interpretation and advocacy in court rooms, and elder service support.
In the Somali community alone, SDC has successfully placed over 500 families in affordable and safe housing, provided advocacy and assisted with civil and criminal cases to over 2500 individuals, and assisted over 1,500 families obtain health insurance. Through our advocacy citizenship classes, we have helped more than 1,000 individuals with green card and citizenship filings. Many of these individuals had to be taught to read and write to pass the citizenship exam over the course of six years.
Since September 11, 2001, SDC has been at the forefront of working with city government authorities to provide education and awareness of Islam and Muslims to promote peaceful coexistence in the wake of those tragic terrorist attacks. SDC continues this work with law enforcement agencies to ensure that young Somali men are not recruited to terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and their affiliates. As a result of this work, the City of Boston has the lowest youth violence rate of any Somali community in the country.
Nearly 10,000 of these Somali refugees have been arriving in the New England area to start new lives since 1992. SDC is a tax-exempt organization as defined by Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. SDC was specifically established by the aforementioned Somali American group to provide multiple services to the Somali and other African newcomers, as there were no effective mainstream social service agencies working with Somalis at that time. SDC-International is also registered as an International NGO in the Republic of Somaliland and will soon be registered in Djibouti, Ethiopia and the Puntland State of Somalia.