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The Suffolk Journal

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Boston’s walk for homelessness endures chills of February

Morgan Hume/ Journal Staff

Morgan Hume/ Journal Staff

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Winter months in Boston can be treacherous for the city’s homeless community, as some struggle each day to find shelter and warmth in the freezing weather. Participants in the inaugural Winter Walk braved the cold temperatures on Sunday morning through the streets of Boston to raise awareness about the challenges homeless people face and to fundraise to help end the fight against homelessness.

“We are asking people to learn more, to learn about homelessness, about our incredible partner organizations providing services to the homeless community in Greater Boston, to look a homeless person in the eye and learn their story,” Ari Barbanell, one of the co-founders of the Winter Walk, said in an interview with The Suffolk Journal before the event. “We are challenging people to walk with us, not to walk by.”

The two-mile long walk took about one hour to complete. It began in Copley Square, looped through the Boston Public Garden and the Boston Common and returned back to the starting point. It was scheduled to take place on Feb. 12, during the coldest month of the year, no matter how much rain or snow  was predicted in the weather forecast, because the point of the walk was to show the conditions homeless people may experience throughout the frigid season. Many people felt that the walk was an eye-opening experience.

“I see a lot of homeless people around the city and I think that it’s a really important issue that doesn’t get enough funding,” Shelby Phelan, a student at Northeastern University, said in an interview with The Journal.

Barbanell said that ending homelessness is within reach due to a number of organizations doing amazing work, and that the objective is to teach people to do more and make change within the city.

Phelan decided to get involved with the Winter Walk to make a difference in the lives of people she sees on the street every day and promote this cause so others could do the same. She explained that she had trouble convincing her friends to come to the walk with her because they were scared of being outside in the cold weather.

“It was supposed to be raining and sleeting, and I tried to get a couple friends to come out with me and they’re like ‘It’s going to be bad weather.’ That’s what they [homeless people] have to do all the time,” Phelan said.

When the participants returned to Copley Square around 10 a.m., they were greeted with a community breakfast outside Trinity Church, live music and presentations from Winter Walk’s partner companies about the work they do and the impact they want to make. Although the walk helped spread awareness about homelessness in the city, some people believed that there were other ways the event could’ve been more effective and more interactive with the homeless community.

“I kind of feel like maybe supporting in other ways could’ve been a lot better than just walking, but I do think it makes you realize how awful it would be to be one of those people who are homeless,” Shelby Stepanian, 28, of Cambridge said in an interview with The Journal after returning to Copley Square. “Maybe it would make you be a bit more mindful when you’re walking by them every morning,”

Each walker donated $100 to participate in the event.

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Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.
Boston’s walk for homelessness endures chills of February