Recently, there was a lot of public discussion about “Tech Bro” Justin Keller, who feels he “shouldn’t have to see the pain, struggle, and despair of homeless people” in San Francisco.
I have more than a passing knowledge of St. Francis, after whom the city is of course named. For almost 20 years, I have been honored to work at the St. Francis House here in Boston where we are dedicated the spirit that drove Francis. We work as a community to provide for the poor and homeless. The irony of Mr. Keller’s views, given the namesake of the city in which he lives, is stunning. St. Francis of Assisi gave away all earthly possessions to serve those who needed him.
Thankfully, our neighbors in Boston don’t share Mr. Keller’s views. We were, honestly, very concerned as we watched our neighborhood, once the Combat Zone, change around us. Our neighbors now include more than 2,000 units of luxury housing.
I’m proud of, and thankful for, our new neighbors, who have shown compassion for the homeless individuals we serve through donations, volunteerism, employment and support for the creation of affordable housing.
Boston’s extensive network of agencies serving the homeless provide day and night shelter, healthcare, mental health and substance abuse counseling, employment and affordable housing. With assistance and leadership from Mayor Walsh, all of these organizations are collaborating to redesign the system to provide coordinated access to housing with the shared goal of ending homelessness.
But we can’t do it alone. This winter we have seen a definite increase in the number of homeless individuals. If we are to continue to make progress the State needs to adequately fund the housing and support services that care for the homeless individuals and increase funding for affordable housing.
Karen LaFrazia is the executive director at St. Francis House, the largest day shelter in Massachusetts serving more than 600 poor and homeless men and women a day.
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