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IDEAS

Voices from Boston’s unhoused: ‘We need more than four walls’

A member of the Black Seed Writers Group and the MANNA community of homeless and unstably housed people at St. Paul's Cathedral in Boston writes poetry.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff
Heather Hopp-Bruce

We would like to see future federal infrastructure money used to improve the shelters and low-income supportive housing for the unhoused and unstably housed community and to create new shelters and housing. More mental health and substance use counseling, legal counsel, and community-building programs such as art, music, writing, and gardening would help us combat the loneliness and isolation of homelessness and transition into permanent housing. We need places where we can hang out, rest, and recharge without feeling unsafe and discriminated against. Spending time in cafes, train stations, libraries, and other public spaces where we are not welcome and where we feel surveilled increases our feelings of embarrassment and isolation.

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Even when we are housed, it is difficult to build community in neighborhoods that lack services and transportation to places where we do have community and receive care. We need more than four walls: We need access to health care, mental health counseling, life-skills training, and job training. We also need more housing and shelter options for couples, women, youth, and LGBTQ+ people.

We need shelters and permanent housing where we feel safe and welcome, where we have personal space, opportunities for community building, and resources that will help us transition from life on the street. Those who are still on the street or in transition need access to free public restrooms, showers, laundry, and clothing services. Lack of access to these essential basics contributes to our feelings of separation from our resourced neighbors.

MANNA of St. Paul’s Cathedral is a community of the unhoused and unstably housed in downtown Boston.