People watch musicians at the Winter Walk. (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)
Over 4,000 people came out Sunday morning to walk together in support of ending homelessness in Boston at the city’s eighth annual Winter Walk.
“It was amazing to see, it had to be thousands people in procession rounding the Common and to realize there are that many people in this one moment standing in solidarity and in support of people experiencing homelessness,” said Karen LaFrazia, president and CEO of St. Francis House.
Teams from 13 local organizations that support the Boston-area homeless population and community members gathered in the Boston Common from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. for the event, marching to raise awareness and funds.
Event organizer Paulina Kusiak Daigle said well over 4,000 people showed up, a big jump from last year.
As of Sunday night, Daigle said, the organization had raised over $400,000, working towards a goal of $500,000. Donations will close around the end of February, she said. Funds will go directly to organizations serving people in the area.
The annual walk comes as demand for homeless services has seen a sharp increase, St. Francis House said in a release, noting the migrant influx.
Over the 2023 year, there was a 46% increase in new registrations for services at St. Francis House, a 61% increase in individuals served, and a 75% increase in individuals receiving meals.
In the coming months, LaFranzia said, the organization is looking at several big projects. These include building housing, expanding the job training program, and renovating the main building to serve people “more efficiently and with more dignity than we’re currently able to do.”
“The most beautiful thing about Winter Walk is walking shoulder to shoulder,” Daigle said. “Today there was no distinction between the housed and unhoused communities.”
Everyone from kids, to teenagers, to older folks, to people walking their dogs, to shelter staff turned out, said LaFrazia.
LaFranzia said she recognized three people who’d come to St. Francis House just in the crowd.
“I wonder how many more were in the throngs,” LaFranzia said. “You couldn’t tell who was homeless, who is homeless, who once was homeless. And I think it just really speaks to once we invest in people, and people can get out of the circumstance that they’re in, homelessness is just an experience. It’s not your identity and and people just move on and just become neighbors.”