Today is the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. It is also National Homeless Memorial Day, a day of recognition of all those who passed away while homeless. It is the day we memorialize all those who did not live to see the dawn of a new day.
For those living in homelessness nighttime is not a time of restorative rest. There is no home to retreat to and escape the stress of the day. Nighttime is the coldest, loneliest, and for many, the most dangerous part of the day. For so many, the winter solstice is not a day but a season in their life. A time in their lives that their days have more darkness than light.
Fortunately, St. Francis House is here as the largest day shelter in Massachusetts. When dawn breaks, we are a welcoming place of refuge. As our guests make their way from wherever they spent the night – the street, a shelter, the subway – hot food, warm clothes, and unconditional love await. And when the body and soul have enough nourishment we are there to help take the next steps to a better life through finding recovery, a job and a home.
Every day I worry about the men and women whose lives stand in the balance and our work reminds me of the Parable of the Starfish.
One morning an elderly man was walking on a nearly deserted beach. He came upon a boy surrounded by thousands of starfish. As eagerly as he could, the youngster was picking them up and throwing them back into the ocean.
Puzzled, the older man looked at the young boy and asked, “Little boy, what are you doing?”
The youth responded without looking up, “I’m trying to save these starfish, sir.”
The old man chuckled aloud, and queried, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”
Holding a starfish in his hand, the boy turned to the man and, gently tossing the starfish into the water, said, “It will make a difference to that one!”
The work of St. Francis House may be inspired by the parable, but unlike the story, we are saving real men and women. Men named George and Billy. Two men I had known for years. George who always spoke so lovingly of a daughter in Florida and Billy who had a grin that spread from ear to ear. Both were beloved by the staff at St. Francis House, both were so close to getting a place to live but the sand in the hourglass of their lives ran out before they could find their peace.
Tomorrow morning, the days will start to get longer, there will be more light than darkness. I am hopeful that for the hundreds of men and women who will make their way to St. Francis House this will mark the dawn of a new life.
Even as I hold the memories of those who have passed, I am filled with hope. For the many that have perished on the street, I also know many that have survived the night and found a better life.
So, on behalf of all the staff and guests of St. Francis House, thank you.
Thank you for caring. Thank you for your support. Thank you for ensuring that we never have to turn anyone away.
Together we are saving and changing lives.
President & CEO
St. Francis House