In the winter months, we have seen a bit of a decrease in the number of homeless individuals sleeping on the streets in Central Square. In large part this is because people are seeking shelter in Boston and Cambridge shelters. However, there are those who continue to sleep outside and regular well-being checks are being performed by outreach to make sure folks are safe. A part of these checks is to offer shelter options and aid in securing transportation to them. Due to the overcrowding this time of year, the shelters are generally a noisy and often intimidating environment, so there are those who feel safer outside and turn down offers to shelter.

In the last month there has been a big push for winter weather donations so that we can help protect our unhoused community. Many are unable to cloth themselves appropriately due to lack of resources, places to store belongings, mental health issues, cognitive issues and many other factors. If anyone would like to help our community by donating, please contact me at Everything that is donated will be used to support our at-risk and homeless community members during the freezing winter months as they address their day to day survival needs.

The following is a list of needed items:
Socks, coats (M,L,XL), winter hats, gloves, long sleeve shirts, long underwear, hand warmers, McDonalds gift cards for $5 or more, Dunkin Donuts gift cards for $5 or more, Primark gift cards for $15 or more

A shout-out to some partners:
This work is all about understanding what's available and making connections on behalf of our clients. I'm excited to share some recent successes:

• In the last couple weeks, I've had the opportunity to collaborate with First Step, ACCESS Drug User Health Program, the Multi Service Center, Cambridge Police Dept. Outreach Officers, Eliot’s PATH program, the Cambridge CoC, Cambridge Health Care for the Homeless and other programs in targeted outreach efforts.

• The MIT Job connector program has agreed to allow conference room space on an as-needed basis for use to provide case management and counseling services to the homeless and at-risk community.

• Food for Free gave us a key to their freezer so that we can heat and distribute frozen meals to those living on the street and without regular access to healthy food.

• Dignity Matters has offered to provide women’s hygiene products as well as bras and underwear to distribute to women in need.

• We received a large donation of winter clothing and coats from Gail Council at the Riverside Community Center. We were able to hand these out directly to homeless and at-risk clients. We also were able to place our extra materials with other service providers in the area, such as Cradles to Crayons, the Multi Service Center, Bridge Over Troubled Waters Outreach Program, First Church’s Friday Café and ACCESS Drug User Health Program.

Jessie Morton, the BID's Outreach Coordinator, brings over a decade's worth of experience running medical and outreach programs to Central Square. She has previously built programs at places like Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore and Bridge Over Troubled Waters here in Boston. She is an integral part of our team, and works daily to navigate the social service landscape on behalf of our at-risk and homeless neighbors. For her observations and reflections on this side of the BID's work, follow along with her updates in Word from the Street.