A coalition of religious leaders in and around Boston have come together to address one of the most critical short term needs of the homeless people who were displaced when the city shut down the bridge to the Long Island Shelter this fall.
The group, the Boston Religious Leaders for Long Island Refugees
, found that because homeless shelters generally require guests to leave during the day, there is a huge need for a warm and comfortable space for them to gather as an alternative to the streets. Old South Church in Boston has stepped in to address that need, voting unanimously to become the site of the new Boston Warm Day Center, which opened on Jan. 19 and will be open Monday through Friday, 9:30 AM to 2:00 PM, until March 31st. By April, the City of Boston expects to have created sufficient beds, recovery programs and storage to accommodate the Long Island Refugees.
The coalition of religious leaders formed when the City of Boston suddenly shut down the 63-year-old bridge connecting the island to the mainland - displacing the 400-plus homeless people bused to the island each night and another 300 in recovery programs there. The leaders came together with the goal to "advocate for an adequate, stable and dignified short and long term response to this crisis that is consistent with our values as communities of faith."
"The Boston Warm Day Center is the labor of Religious Leaders for Long Island Refugees," said Old South Church Senior Minister Nancy Taylor. "For months we have been worrying over and advocating on behalf of the increasingly dire plight of the Long Island Refugees. Many of them have been struggling to make it day to day under inhumane and deplorable circumstances. While the City of Boston has been focused on a long-term solution, our most vulnerable sisters and brothers have suffered in these coldest and harshest of times."
The center will offer 30 to 40 people at a time hot coffee and snacks, a place to rest, puzzles and art supplies, and lockable storage. A second temporary day center is scheduled to open on Mondays and Fridays, beginning Jan. 26, at Emmanuel Church on Newbury Street, according to The Boston Globe
Neighbors of faith have all worked together to ensure the Old South warm center’s success. An experienced Day Center Manager and a Day Center Administrator will staff the center at all times. Volunteers, trained by Starlight Ministries
, will take shifts during the day. The $43,000 of funding needed for the staff, daily janitorial services, coffee and healthy snacks, sturdy and lockable storage bins for people's personal belongings, art supplies, dumpster, and other equipment is being raised within and outside Old South. City Mission Society of Boston
, who has run the weekly meetings of Religious Leaders for Long Island Refugees, has donated a staff person to help organize the center, build a website and coordinate services. The Massachusetts Council of Churches
has helped spread the word via networking and contacts.
“We will be a small part of the solution,” said Taylor. “Our Open Door will open just a little wider. Our Sanctuary in the City will offer refuge to Boston's most vulnerable.”
Monetary donations and volunteers are needed for the warm center. Volunteers work in 4-hour shifts and must attend a training session prior to volunteering. Find more information at: bostonwarm.weebly.com
History of Long Island
Before the 63-year-old Long Island Bridge was closed (it is estimated that repairs will take five years), it connected Long Island to Moon Island, which then connects to the Squantum area of Quincy.According to the City of Boston website
, Long Island is the “largest and longest Boston Harbor Island.” Even if you are a Massachusetts native, you may not know about Long Island because it is not open to the public, and its entry road is gated and guarded. Until the bridge closing, it was “a campus run by the City of Boston Public Health Commission that houses the Long Island Shelter and a number of human services.”
The island was originally known for its resort facilities during much of the 19th
century. But from the turn of the century to the present, it has catered to those less fortunate. At different times it was the location of an alms house, a chronic care hospital, and homes for unwed mothers, alcoholics and the homeless. Over the past few years, up to 1000 people each day have utilized the island’s programs for recovering addicts, slept at the homeless shelter, or attended a camp where urban youth escape summertime violence.