In 2015, Johnathan Fournier and his now-fiancée, Jillian Rodriguez, were struggling to make ends meet. They had full-time jobs and aspirations of making it big in the hip-hop music business.
They had two young children and lived in a third-floor walk-up in the city’s South End. It wasn’t their ideal but they were making ends meet and making it work. Neither came from wealth, or even working-class homes, but they were a smart and ambitious young couple.
Rodriguez was captain of the cheerleading squad and president of her high school class in 2008. She was used to attaining her goals. But, the third-floor walk-up apartment felt like they had stalled.
“It was supposed to be a stepping stone, but we just weren’t stepping,” Fournier said.
Then, the shooting happened. The couple bought tickets to a rap concert at the now-shuttered Paramount Theater on Easter Sunday. At the end of the show, shots rang out. Someone began firing wildly into the lobby.
Rodriguez was hit with two stray bullets in both her legs. Fournier tried to throw himself over his diminutive love, who is under five feet tall, and was grazed in the calf.
That incident prompted their already financially precarious standing to topple. She was hospitalized, then lost her job. He left his to care for the children. Rodriguez could barely climb the stairs once she was discharged from the hospital. To add to their troubles, a pipe burst in their apartment, triggering sudden, widespread water damage.
They were finally forced out of their home and searched for a place to stay that was appropriate for a young, broke couple with two young children. Market rate options were zero and other alternatives were few.
Then, a friend of Rodriguez suggested she call the Center for Human Development.
“I went to homeless services, basically told them our story. They started helping me out,” she said.
The family first moved into shared housing, then a single-family unit for several months until they could find something more permanent.
“CHD literally rescued the family,” Fournier said. “I don’t know what else we would have done.”
While Rodriguez is still recovering from her injuries, Fournier is working again. Both musicians – who met in a recording studio – they decided to cut a charity hip-hop album called “’Tis the Season” along with a collective of other local artists.
They sold 100 and made $1,000 – half of which they donated to CHD’s Homelessness and Shelter Program. It was a gesture of generosity that extended far beyond their income, staffers remarked.
Assistant director Pedro Rodriguez (no relation to Jillian) said the couple’s donation came just in time, as staff were planning to create an ad hoc food pantry including baby formula and other goods, to help meet any emergency needs families may experience because of the ongoing government shutdown.
Fournier and Rodriguez recently made their donation on behalf of Smifhouse Records (his music label) and Studio Rebels (her graphic arts business).
“After all we’ve been through, I thought: if we’re going to sell them we should give back to somebody who helped us,” Fournier said.