'Unprecedented' Demand For Aid To Boston Homeless During Cold Snap

BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- The recent cold weather continues to put a tremendous strain on those in the city who provide services for the homeless.

Karen LaFrazia, President and CEO of St. Francis House, a day shelter that aids the homeless in Boston, told WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Carl Stevens the demand for services was "unprecedented."

"The weather is so brutally cold, it only takes a few minutes for people to start suffering the affects of exposure," LaFrazia said. "Folks are coming inside to us, they're hungry, they're cold ... we have never seen the number of people coming in to us. It's unprecedented, the numbers of people seeking refuge at St. Francis House."

The shelter has been opening earlier than usual, and has been serving twice as many meals as usual.

LaFrazia said they've been handing out hats, gloves, and coats as soon as they get them, knowing that, for the homeless on Boston's cold streets, it's all about layers. 

Pine Street Inn head Lyndia Downey said her shelter was over capacity Thursday night into Friday--and that's with the local veteran's shelter opening their lobby and the city's night shelter opening.

She said there are places for people to sleep--but it's not necessarily comfortable.

"We'll put people on cots in our lobby, and in other shelters, and then on mats on the floor, because at this point, everybody's bursting at the seams," she said. "It's very busy, we were over by roughly 70 people above our capacity in the shelter ... for anybody who will ask to come in, we obviously have something available, but of course some people decided not to come in."

Downey said street numbers have so far stayed the same during the cold spell--and she's very worried about their health.

"The Pine Street Inn outreach vans were out all night bringing those folks soup and coffee, sandwiches, additional blankets, in some cases putting them in the van and letting them ride around with us for a little bit to stay warm," she said.

She said 92 people stayed outside last night--18 women and 74 men.

"Half those folks did end up in transit stations throughout the city, but the other half really tried to hunker down in what I would say are their usual sites when they stay out," she said.

St. Francis House said that, if anyone is in a position to help, they could use donations of anything that will keep people warm. 

Donate to St. Francis House here

Donate to Pine Street Inn here

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Carl Stevens reports

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