Submission from Karen LaFrazia, Executive Director of St. Francis House, the largest homeless day shelter in the Commonwealth.
On this day, December 21, we recognize National Homeless Memorial Day in remembrance of all who passed away while homeless. It is a stark reminder that homelessness is a 24-hour, ongoing experience. The darkness and isolation of being without a home, without a supportive community, is expounded by this longest night of the year –the winter solstice. So many of our fellow Boston citizens suffer through the darkness night after night.
Here at St. Francis House, we have served more than 5,300 individuals so far this year. When the sun comes up, homeless men and women migrate in an exodus from wherever they spent the dark, cold night, arriving here at 39 Boylston Street each day, taking solace and refuge in our Day Center as their home during the day. While they are here, many take advantage of cooked meals, showers, and get a change of clothes. Additionally, they have the opportunity to take part in counseling services, as well as life skills and vocational training. In serving the poor and the homeless, we are a safe haven for individuals who need support or have nowhere else to go.
Every day, I celebrate the triumphs of our guests and stand in the presence of others in despair, facing the toll of homelessness. At times the needs seem overwhelming. There have been times during my nearly 20 years at St. Francis House when I have wondered whether we’re making a difference. But we — and I mean all of us—we can never give up.
Each person who walks through our front door for basic services has their own set of struggles, but no matter what, we are consistently there for our guests, serving with compassionate care. On this day, as we acknowledge all the lost lives, we also need to recognize the importance of St. Francis House and other fellow organizations where despite the demand, and regardless of the obstacles, we never give up on anyone and help so many work towards rebuilding their lives. We can best honor those we have lost by continuing to serve those who remain poor and homeless and in need of our support.
In this way, we can help lighten the darkness for those most in need.
About St Francis House
St. Francis House is the largest day shelter in the Commonwealth, serving more than 600 poor and homeless men and women a day, 365 days a year on their road out of homelessness. St. Francis House provides basic, rehabilitative and housing services that overlap and build on one another to provide guests with continuous and comprehensive care. Learn more: www.stfrancishouse.org