First ever Winter Walk shares Homeless experiences, stories

All Photos: Evgenia Eliseeva

The first Winter Walk took place Sunday, Feb. 12 seeking to address the needs of Boston’s homeless community and share the real stories and struggles of this population.

As we trudge through the coldest month of the year, thankful for many luxuries we deem standard commodities, our city’s homeless individuals are faced with the terrible reality of New England’s harsh winter weather.

The event’s funders, including Boston entrepreneur Paul English, co-founder of Kayak, really wanted participants to feel and experience what it’s like for the homeless during brutal conditions, which is why they chose to host the event during February.

Many of us take for granted having a warm and safe place to wake up in everyday, forgetting the thousands of people who camp out in the door steps of local businesses and in our MBTA stations. The Winter Walk served as a reminder of our unnoticed privileges.

In an article published last year by the New Boston Post the was a spike in the homeless population from previous years that conveyed a 5.6 percent increase in 2015. In that year, the homeless census accounted for 7,663 men, women, and children without a permanent place of residence. There was also a 25 percent jump in homeless families.

The inaugural Winter Walk aimed to raise funds in addition to awareness. Participants gathered on Copley Square Plaza, and then walked two-miles to experience just a fraction of what our homeless community experiences during the winter.

Following the walk, participants came together to share breakfast and witness presentations from funding partner organizations and members of the homeless community.

There was a projected turnout of 1,000 registered participants and the actual event received more support than anticipated.

Being one of those individuals that came out early Sunday morning, I will say the walk was  effective in driving home the point.

As someone who is rooted in social justice issues, I personally thought that this was a creative way to not only get people out and learning about communities less fortunate than their own, but it served as a tool of empowerment.

Many participants met with partners of the event seeking information on ways to outreach, and provide more assistance to Boston’s homeless population. It proves that the walk was a bridge between unaware citizens and affected participants who now seek change for something that we as a community can address.

Ari Barbanell, Director and Co-founder, was another driving force in seeing through the plans of the Winter Walk. Her efforts to solicit funds to make this a reality was surely paid off.

“Planning this was definitely a task but it was great to see it come to fruition,” said Barbanell.

All proceeds raised from the Winter Walk in this first year will be donated to five organizations that collectively serve a broad population of homeless individuals. These organizations include Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP), Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Pine Street Inn, Young Adults Uniting to End Homelessness (also known as the Y2Y Shelter), and Brookview House.

Each of these organizations are steadfast in their efforts to combat the harsh realities that many homeless individuals and families face on a daily basis through Boston, with their help the experience of the Winter Walk wouldn’t be a reality.

In addition to the partners of the walk, sponsors had an instrumental role in implementation as well. Some of these included The Rockport Group, Cumberland Farms, Boston Medical Center, Newbury Comics, and several hotels.

If you would like to help be a part of the change to eradicate this unfortunate occurrence, you can reach out to local organizations, like partners of the Winter Walk, and find your place in the movement to end homelessness and housing instability in Boston.



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