At 10:00 pm on January 30, 300+ volunteers gathered inside City Hall to hear from the Mayor before forming nearly fifty teams to fan across neighborhoods for the annual Boston Homeless Census. The annual census is an attempt to quantify the number of people living unsheltered on Boston’s streets.
Falling on one of the coldest nights this winter, several staff members from St. Francis including Karen LaFrazia, President and CEO, Serena Cardoso, Associate Director of Housing Stabilization Services, and Casey Tiefenwerth, Workforce Development Supportive Services Supervisor, were among the teams that combed the streets throughout the bitterly cold night. Their neighborhood of focus was Chinatown.
“We were able to locate two individuals outside that night. One gentleman was hunkered down in an alley with his belongings surrounding him and one was on top of a heating grate. Neither men were interested in coming inside for shelter.” said one participant, “It was so cold outside.”
Some on the team were nervous about how it would feel to encounter someone outside on such a cold evening. “I know I have a lot of supports and I wouldn’t be able to make it outside during a night like that. The determination that is needed to live in those conditions is remarkable. It is an example of what lives in the individuals we serve.”
Why we count
For cities and towns, an annual point-in-time census is a requirement of their federal Housing and Urban Development funding. Boston and many other large cities have made it an opportunity to understand where people are sheltering, connect them with a network of shelters, and ask them questions that will inform program development. For cities, the Census is a stark reminder that the real work of government is the well-being of its residents.
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh remarks
“We have prioritized ending chronic homelessness since day one, and making sure that everyone has a place to call home,” said Mayor Walsh. “Besides providing critical insight to guide our efforts to end homelessness while offering immediately assistance to individuals in need of shelter, the homeless census is always an opportunity to embrace who we are as a community, the values we share, and how deeply we care about one another.”