Volunteers and Boston residents gathered in Blackstone Square on Saturday, October 15, to raise awareness and money for programs that serve the homeless population in the South End.
Starlight Ministries, a program of Emmanuel Gospel Center on San Juan Street, has been raising $20,000 through its annual Starlight 5K Walkathon for six years for programs it hopes to expand throughout the city. But this year’s fundraising goal was double the amount.
Part of the reason is because Rosie’s Place, a well-known resource for homeless women in the area, is undergoing renovations, said Morningstar Baptist Church Director, the Rev. Cynthia Hymes Bell, who helps run the Opportunity Resource Center (ORC) at Emmanuel Center.
“We hadn’t been serving as many women before until now, and a lot of them need clothing,” Bell said.
Bell, a public health consultant, said the ORC opens every Thursday afternoon to provide homeless people with food, clothing and personal care products, which can be expensive.
The Rev. Brian Gearin, Emmanuel Center’s director of church and ministry partnerships, who also works in the ORC, said it provides its homeless “guests” with $1 haircuts and a “personal shopper” to help them pick out what clothing they need.
Money raised, Gearin said, will also support other programs run by Starlight Ministries for the homeless, including Tuesday night bible studies and its Wednesday night Outdoor Outreach Program, which serves populations on Boston Common and by Magazine Beach in Cambridge.
Increased funding for programs like these is necessary, Bell said, because the homeless population has increased, as seen in the city’s homeless census, which showed a 25 percent increase in homeless families and a 35 percent increase in homeless youth compared to last year.
“It seems that the problem is becoming increasingly more visible here, if you look at Melnea Cass Boulevard and Harrison Avenue,” she said.
State Rep. Byron Rushing, who represents and resides in the South End, took part in the event for the first time.
“I think it’s just important to support a program like this that tries to get as many people involved who are from churches and other faith groups to concentrate on ending homelessness, which is just one of the most frustrating things in my whole career in the legislature, as to how long it’s taken to provide affordable housing for everybody,” he told Spare Change News.
Helping other organizations provide similar programs and services to people is on Starlight Ministries’ agenda for 2017.
“We’re here to support the greater need of the homeless population here in Boston,” Bell said. “Our focus in the upcoming year is to train churches, faith-based groups and social services to do what we do so that there are some more options for people.”
Correction: Do to an editorial mistake an earlier headline for this story incorrectly stated that $20,000 had been raised for Rosie’s Place