Update: MAP and Dog Care Academy

Update: MAP and Dog Care Academy

COVID-19 has invaded every aspect of our lives: our activities, our health, our livelihood. Unemployment is at an all-time high. As a leader in our field, St. Francis House takes pride in helping individuals experiencing homelessness rebuild their lives and get back into the workforce.

Unfortunately, many who were benefiting from our programs when the pandemic hit have had their momentum and progress come to a screeching halt.

COVID-19 has disrupted our current programs. The Moving Ahead Program (MAP) provides housing and stipends for students, taking them out of homelessness. And our Dog Care Academy internship provides a substantial stipend which brings them much needed support.

When we had to cancel both programs with little warning, hope fizzled into fear, as many participants were terrified that this health crisis would force them back into homelessness without an opportunity in sight.

We want to assure you: we are here for our students, and pandemic or not, our students can always count on St. Francis House to meet their most pressing needs. 

We remain steadfast in our commitment to continue to pay weekly stipends for both MAP students and Dog Care Academy interns and cover housing costs so participants can remain in recovery settings until they are able to come back to St. Francis House and complete their classes.

Thank you to our community for giving us the ability to be there for our guests, students, interns, and our graduates. Amidst this devastating pandemic, together we continue to give people in need opportunity and hope – the foundation for rebuilding lives.

Masks for St. Francis House

Even amidst this global pandemic, St. Francis House remains open and committed to being a refuge for our guests. Those individuals relying on our essential services at this time are the most vulnerable among us and are depending on us now, more than ever.

Over the past several weeks, we have been heartened by the kind messages of support and offers of assistance we have received from our community. Today, we are hoping you can support our efforts to keep the St. Francis House community safe and healthy by donating face masks or the materials to make them.

We are looking for donations of disposable masks and are accepting homemade ones as well. Our team has put together three informational PDFs; one explains how to sew fabric masksthe other has two methods for no-sew masks. In addition, we’ve also included a PDF on how and when to wear a face mask. 

We are also seeking donations of new materials for our team to make them. The materials that are needed are:

  • Elastic: 1/8 inch craft elastic, 1/4 inch craft elastic, hair elastics
  • Tight-knit cottons or flannel; like quilting cotton or bed sheets/pillowcases with a 600+ thread count. Cotton-polyester blends are okay too (better filtration but harder to breathe through).
  • Coffee filters

Completed masks and materials can be mailed to:

St. Francis House
Judy Coleman
39 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116

To coordinate a drop-off, please call 617-654-1239 or email jcoleman2@stfrancishouse.org.

As always, we are grateful for your support of our mission to be a place of safety and comfort for our guests, and we hope you’ll consider forwarding this to your network to help spread the word.

A message from Madeline, our Volunteer Services Coordinator, for National Volunteer Week

To my sorely missed volunteers,

First, how are you doing? COVID-19 affects all of us, and I am thinking of you and your families. I wish, more than anything, I could be with all of you in person to celebrate National Volunteer Week. I would invite you all to a Zoom celebration, but I think there are so many of you, it would probably crash!

I’m excited to share that this past year, over 3,000 individuals have volunteered a whopping 28,137 hours at St. Francis House. You have spent thousands of hours doing more than just meeting our guests’ immediate needs, like serving hot meals and handing out emergency clothing. Some things that come to mind include: sharpening resumes, teaching soft skills, leading meditations, creating art, giving direction, listening and consoling people through tough times, and providing hope and smiles to hundreds of guests every day.

Your dedication makes it possible to stand true to our mission and never turn a single person away. Thank you.

Thank you for your commitment to our guests, whether that be a semester in the kitchen or 25 years at the Resource Center. Thank you for spreading our mission and constantly pulling in your friends and family, because of you there are more people than ever involved in our life-saving work. Thank you for your insight, kindness, compassion, energy, skills, and time – you make our job supporting our guests at St. Francis House easier – and much, much more meaningful.

I am honored to work with every single one of you and I look forward to the day we can be together at 39 Boylston again.

Please, stay well.

Until we meet again!


Madeline Lessing
Volunteer Services Coordinator


Due to COVID-19, we have currently suspended on-site volunteer activity until further notice. For more information on volunteering with St. Francis House in the future, visit our Volunteer page here. To get involved and support St. Francis House at this time, we encourage you to follow us on social media @sfhbostonmake and mail-in cloth face masks for our staff and guests, check out our Amazon Wishlist for guests of St. Francis House, or contribute to the SFH COVID-19 Emergency Fund.

Looking for a job? Don’t forget to take advantage of digital apps.

This blog is part of a series by the Workforce Development staff at St. Francis House.

Download the graphic as a PDF here.

Looking for a job is always a stressful experience, and the current coronavirus crisis isn’t making it any easier. There is some good news on the job front. Many employers are hiring which we wrote about last Friday in the weekly post from our Workforce Development team. (See Finding work in the time of COVID-19). And, thanks to the digital age we’re in, there are many free digital apps available that job seekers can take advantage of to find work. They’re accessible to anyone with a smartphone, which many of our guests have in their pockets.

The workforce team has pulled together an overview of five of the most popular of these apps:

The team’s overview, which you can download here includes a brief profile of each app, with a link, as well as some general dos and don’ts for looking for a job in the digital world. (One important tip: just because you’re using an app, you still need to present yourself professionally. No out-there images or videos!)

No smartphone? No problem! While this piece focuses on apps you can use on your digital device, don’t worry if you don’t have one. Take a look at our list of resources here, or get in touch with our team:

  • Call our Front Desk: Call (617)-654-1257 and leave a message with your name and contact information and a team member will reach out to you that same day.
  • Send an Email: wfdinfo@stfrancishouse.org

Looking for a job? Download Five Free Job Search Apps – now!

Finding work in the time of COVID-19

This blog post is part of a series by our Workforce Development team.

We’re all seeing the same grim statistics: tens of millions newly unemployed, millions of just-laid-off workers applying for benefits each week. And then there are the untold millions who’d been looking for work when the pandemic hit. The people that the Workforce Development team at St. Francis House support fall into all of these categories. And we want everyone to know that we are still busy supporting our guests as they navigate the rough waters in this difficult time. We’re helping them find their way through the unemployment system, learn what other benefit programs might be available to them, and even find new jobs.

Yes! Companies are hiring!

There are many different fields where organizations are actively looking for new hires at this critical time. Organizations providing essential services are, in fact, eager to hire those able to work on the front lines in supporting the public. In Massachusetts, the list of essential services defined by Governor Baker include:

Healthcare, public health, human services – e.g. medical caregivers, hospital personnel

Law enforcement, public safety, first responders – e.g. Police, fire, EMT’s, 911 services

Food and agriculture – e.g. Grocery store workers, pharmacy workers, restaurant carry-out

Energy – e.g. utility company workers, petroleum workers

Water and wastewater – e.g. operational staff at water authorities

Transportation & logistics – e.g. truck drivers, maintenance technicians, postal workers

Public works – e.g. workers who support the maintenance of dams and roads, plumbers, electricians

Communications and Information Technology -e.g. IT workers supporting command centers

Other community based-essential functions and government operations – e.g. security staff, hotel workers, convenience stores, laundromats

Critical manufacturing – e.g. Workers needed in the medical or food chains and other critical manufacturing arenas

Hazardous materials -e.g. workers at nuclear facilities

Financial services – e.g. workers in banks

Chemical -e.g. workers supporting safe transport of chemicals

Defense industrial base – e.g. workers who support services in the interest of national security and/or under contract to the Department of Defense

You can see the full list here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-essential-services/download

It’s clear from this list that a great many fields are still recruiting to keep Massachusetts up and running. You can utilize the St. Francis House Workforce Development Department to help you research, identify and apply to jobs in these industries.

We’re a MassHire Access Point

These partial listings were pulled from the MassHire downtown Boston website, which you can access here: https://masshiredowntownboston.org/hiringduringcovid-19/

As a MassHire Access Point, the St Francis House Workforce Development team can connect you to any roles you see on a MassHire website or any other job website. We can also give you personal assistance through email, phone or video  – helping you with editing your resume, cover letter writing and phone/online interviewing techniques. In addition, we can guide you to relevant virtual workshops and articles that can give you an extra edge when it comes to letting your application stand out from the crowd!

As we mentioned in our post last week: through email, phone and video, we’re continuing to provide individualized services virtually. We look forward to meeting you if we haven’t already. For guests not already assigned to a staff member but in need of assistance, there are a few ways to contact our team: 

  • Call our Front Desk: Call (617)-654-1257 and leave a message with your name and contact information and a team member will reach out to you that same day. 
  • Send an Email: wfdinfo@stfrancishouse.org 

For more information:

Looking for a place to call home: Our work goes on, pandemic or not

When we ask our guests what they most want, the first thing is always a place to call home.

Think of it for a moment.

Most of us are sheltering in place in homes where we can make ourselves a cup of coffee, grab a snack from the fridge, and take a quick catnap. If we’re not able to work from home, if we’re on the frontlines of the pandemic, we know that at the end of the day we’ll be able to take a shower, catch a movie on Netflix, and settle in for the night in a nice warm bed.

Not so for our guests; where they’ll be laying their heads down each night is a question, a struggle. And as the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to a screeching halt the progress so many guests had been making towards finding permanent housing, it has also meant that the need to find a place to spend the night has taken on a new urgency. 

Now, more than ever, St. Francis House is here to help.

Our case managers are actively reaching out to guests and continuing to work with them, with the city of Boston and with our homeless provider partners to ensure safe beds are available each evening. And when things get back to the new normal, we’ll continue being there to help our guests secure permanent, affordable, safe housing – a place they can truly call home.

Amidst this pandemic, the St. Francis House Housing and Stabilization team has also made great effort to ensure that our residents living in our 102 units of permanent affordable housing – upstairs at 39 Boylston, and across the street at The Union – stay safe, informed, and connected to the resources and benefits available to them.

Our tenants, many who are living in their first stable place since sleeping in shelters and living on the streets, were terrified that this current health crisis would force them into homelessness once more. Our staff are working with each one of them to calm anxiety and ensure their pantries are stocked with food, medication, and toiletries. This past week, we purchased prepaid cell phones with unlimited calls and texting for those of our tenants without access to a phone. They’re now able to maintain connections, connect with providers, and avoid complete isolation.

As we focus on the short term needs that the pandemic has made more acute, our work may be different for the duration. But what remains a constant is that we’ll always be there to help our guests – and our tenants – with their housing needs.

Homelessness, Recovery, and COVID-19: Taking it one day at a time.

It’s been three weeks now since St. Francis House first adjusted our services and operations for the coronavirus, and life as we knew it abruptly shifted. Although the streets are quiet, we’re still as busy as ever with 400 guests still coming through the doors of St. Francis House each day to receive services. They’re picking up bagged meals and emergency clothing, getting toiletries and taking showers, working with mental health counselors, and – most importantly – they’re coming in out of the cold and rain and finding a welcome and a friendly face.

On any given day, dozens of those guests will make their way up to the Recovery Support Center on the 5th floor, a dedicated floor for homeless individuals struggling to hold tight to their recovery. Fighting the disease of addiction is hard enough when you are homeless and it has been only exacerbated by the COVID crisis. The 5th floor of St. Francis House is a beacon of hope for those fighting for their recovery without the stability of a home amidst a global crisis.

With Governor Baker’s emergency orders last week, Recovery Support Centers across the state of Massachusetts have closed their doors for safety. Alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases of isolation, and Centers have responded by going digital and mobilizing quickly to create virtual safe spaces online for their members to maintain recovery from the comfort of their own homes.

But for those without a home, that just isn’t possible.

As the only homeless-serving Recovery Support Center in the state, we are so grateful to be a unique exception and remain open and a place of refuge for our guests maintaining recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the shift three weeks ago, the St. Francis House Recovery Support Center (RSC) has been managing a new normal and making swift changes to ensure the health and safety of all guests who use the space.

The staff has made the decision to remove congregate furniture, space out seating, open more rooms, and place informational signs on the floor to ensure everyone is kept safe and informed. In addition to peer leaders helping manage the flow of guests, the team has organized a COVID-19 Support Group that meets daily. This new group gives RSC members a place to share their frustrations and the anxiety that comes with being a person maintaining recovery while homeless during a frightening global pandemic.

While we’ve all felt the impact of this coronavirus, our guests – often alone and afraid – are still fighting to survive in a world where too often people experiencing the aftermath of trauma, mental health challenges, and/or substance use disorder are simply overlooked.

Recovery under the best of circumstances is never easy, but we’re buoyed by the recent message that Mayor Marty Walsh – who is himself in recovery – sent to those struggling in this time of coronavirus: “We’ll get through this one day at a time.”

And that’s how we’re taking it at the St. Francis House Recovery Support Center: one day at a time.  


A message from the SFH Workforce Development Department

Although our current classes are temporarily suspended, we are still open for business! 

The coronavirus pandemic has not been easy on anyone. But for those individuals experiencing or vulnerable to homelessness who’ve lost their jobs because of it, or who were in the process of preparing to return to the world of work when the full force of it struck, it’s been especially tough. While our team may be working remotely for the duration, the St. Francis House Workforce Development Department is still open for business, continuing to provide services and resources for our guests.  

Whether our guests need help getting ready to rejoin the workforce, editing their resumes, applying for work (and, amazingly, there are still some organizations hiring!), or are looking for resources to maintain their health and safety during this time, we’re here to assist in any ways that we can.  

Through email, phone and video, we’re continuing to provide individualized services virtually. For guests not already assigned to a staff member but in need of assistance, there are a few ways to contact our team: 

  • Call our Front Desk: Call (617)-654-1257 and leave a message with your name and contact information and a team member will reach out to you that same day. 
  • Send an Email: info@stfrancishouse.org 

And we highly recommend staying on top of your skills by attending virtual workshops, reading relevant articles and continuing to apply for work. Below is a list of resources compiled by our team that you may find useful. 

General Resource Information: 

Who’s Hiring (Local): 

Who’s Hiring (National): 

Webinars/Articles on Employment-Related Topics: 

Lost Income? Grants/Funds for Unemployed: 


Healthcare/Human Services 


Unemployment Benefits: 

Additional Resources:  

Food: Project Bread 

Free Online Library Books 

Virtual Museum Tours 

YMCA Virtual Workouts 

Mutual Aid Groups 

Mental Health Resources 

Information about COVID-19: 

Boston.Gov Information Page 

CDC Information Page 

Boston Public Health Commission 

Mass.Gov Information Page 


We’re continuing to create online learning tools and plan to regularly update the community with tools and resources. Stay tuned!  

Download this list of resources as a PDF.

Visit our COVID-19 dedicated page for more information on our agency’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.