It was a packed dining room at Pine Street Inn on Tuesday for the annual Christmas Eve luncheon, one of the shelter's signature events that fed close to 1,000 men and women on a chilly winter day.
People filled the dining room of the South End headquarters of Pine Street Inn as they were served a warm lunch of beef stew with egg noodles, seasoned green beans, and tossed salad.
Founded in 1969, the Pine Street Inn provides permanent supportive housing; job training and placement; emergency shelter; and street outreach to more than 1,600 homeless men and women daily.
Among the volunteers at Pine Street's feast were Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, US Senator Edward J. Markey, and Boston Mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh.
"At the first Christmas in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph were looking for a place and there was no room," O'Malley said as he entered the lunch. "But in Pine Street Inn there is always room. The doors are open for the brothers and sisters who are homeless."
O'Malley has long made serving the Pine Street Inn's Christmas Eve lunch a part of his holiday schedule, appearing each of the past several years.
In addition to the holiday meal in the South End, Pine Street's outreach team will deliver holiday meals to hundreds more men and women who are on the streets.
"Christmas is about hope. It's about light overcoming the darkness," O'Malley said.
Markey, who was the first of the elected officials to arrive, quickly made his way to the dining room, put on an apron, and mingled among the hundreds who eagerly awaited the meal.
Each of the officials stressed the need to care for the homeless and downtrodden, themes present in the same New Testament biblical accounts of the Christmas story.
"Christmas for me is about gratitude," Walsh said.
As he entered the lunch, Walsh vowed to prioritize new funding and programs to address homelessness once he takes office.
"It's a huge priority, that's one of the reason that I ran for mayor," Walsh said. "[We] have a rising homeless population and we've got to do something."