By Addy Hayman and Mackenzie Condon
Hundreds of homeless Bostonians were helped by island community members in a CityReach event in Boston, along with several other youth groups from Massachusetts. CityReach is part of a larger scale effort of Common Cathedral, an outdoor church program. Common Cathedral makes many events possible for those that are unhoused or want to get involved. Some of these events include accessible ministries every Sunday and many weekdays as well as sessions to develop artistic abilities. Island students traveled as part of a youth group.
All groups arrived at 7 PM with a bounty of clothing and food supplies that would be prepared for those in need. CityReach staff who were either homeless, or had been homeless, toured the groups around downtown Boston, pointing out parts of the city that are integral to the homeless community but often overlooked by pedestrians.
Freshman Wilson Slayton said, “At first I didn’t understand why we walked around at night instead of when it was light out but I quickly learned how different the city is after dark. Stores are closed and there are only a few people still walking about. Homeless people slept against the doors of shops trying to position themselves under a roof or above a grate to keep themselves warm. We went into a train station, which at that hour, is one of the few safe havens from the cold.”
After walking around, all the groups met back up on the Boston Common to experience firsthand what an outdoor ministry is like. Laura Shatzer, reverend and CityReach guide, led the group in song and then asked what everyone was thankful for.
Allyse Guyther, a freshman said, “It was nice to hear what everyone shared because we all come from different places and different situations, but can agree on a multitude of things we are thankful for. People shared thoughts such as being thankful for peace and for a warm place to stay.”
The next morning everyone woke up at 6 to prepare for the day ahead. The group made peanut butter and jelly and ham and cheese sandwiches. They were also responsible for coffee and granola bars. Other groups set up rooms and organized the mass of clothing. When the doors opened, dozens of people that had slept on the steps of the church the previous night, flooded through to the warm room. Throughout the day, volunteers assisted others–whether it was a student handing out warm clothing, or passing a sandwich, there was a constant interaction between two strangers, improving and enriching one another’s lives.
Chaperone and high school English teacher David Wilson commented on the eye-opening event. He said, “I realize now that there are people who don’t fit the physical or emotional profile that you would think a homeless person would have, but are infact homeless. Just because someone looks different, it does not mean they are.