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News :: Human Rights
Homeless protest for food in Brockton
22 Sep 2005
[article pulled down from center because it's a re-post from The Enterprise newspaper]

BROCKTON — Claiming city leaders and those aspiring to be city leaders are ignoring their needs, more than a dozen homeless people stood on Main Street Monday hoping to get noticed. "We're trying to get Gracie's and Strictly Sober reopened," said Robin Burns, 42, homeless since May 27.
The demonstration by the homeless was unusual and perhaps a first, said Dennis Carman, executive director of MainSpring Coalition for the Homeless. "I don't think I've ever, in the 12 years I've been here, had anybody collectively demonstrate," Carman said.

The fruit and cookies lined up on the sidewalk represented the only food they would have until dinner, the one hot meal of the day they said they get at MainSpring, a shelter for the homeless.
Otherwise, said Angela DeLuca, 19, "We don't eat."

It has been that way since St. Paul Episcopal Church's soup kitchen, known as Gracie's, closed voluntarily last month for renovations, according to DeLuca and others. The soup kitchen, which was run by Grace Bruce of Brockton for many years, serves some 150 homeless people and others in need each day. It was the only facility in the city that provided daily lunch to the needy.

Strictly Sober, a 34-bed North Main Street facility for the homeless, also closed last month after Director Bob Hughes was assaulted by an intoxicated client. Both the kitchen and homeless center are preparing to reopen next month, but the homeless protesters say the losses are hurting the most needy people of the city.

Dennis Brodeur, 53, who has been homeless for two months, said he will get the city's homeless population to vote today in hopes of getting City Hall to listen to their needs. From Main Street, the group went to City Hall, where they met Robert Martin, director of human services for Mayor John T. Yunits Jr. "I'm concerned," Martin said after talking with the group. He said he has offered to work with St. Paul's Episcopal Church to resume food service there.

The temporary closings demonstrate the challenges faced by groups that provide services to the homeless, said Joe Finn, executive director of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance. "Most organizations that serve homeless people are at best only partially supported by public funding," he said. "For those who rely on private funding, these must be trying times."

Finn said nearly 4,000 single adults seek beds in shelters throughout the state each night. "The shelter system continues to be over capacity, about 112 percent," he added. Finn said MainSpring, through its workforce initiative, is participating in the renovations at the soup kitchen, which serves more than just the homeless.

Ellie Wentworth, a member of the kitchen committee at the church, said the work has been a community effort with help from many sources, including Stonehill College students. "We're doing a major cleanup," said Ellie Wentworth, a member of the kitchen committee at the church. Four people volunteered to take a food safety course to become state certified and eligible to work in the kitchen, Wentworth said.

A new board of directors is being organized to oversee the kitchen, which has been open for more than two decades, Wentworth said. The kitchen is slated to reopen by mid-October. Carman said MainSpring houses up to 80 homeless people each night and generally provides clients with a bag lunch.

Strictly Sober, meanwhile, is providing three meals a day for those who show up looking for food, said director Bob Hughes. He said apartments were found for some who were displaced by the temporary closing. Donations of building materials will expedite the reopening, he said.

"We need to reopen soon; we need to provide," Hughes said. "They are good people and the ones with anxiety, we will take care of them." The only other resources for the homeless are outside Brockton, said Eric Perela, 42, who has been homeless for four months and joined the demonstrators on Monday. Samaritan House, a homeless shelter in Taunton with beds for 14 men and four women, has provided accommodations for one or two people from Brockton in recent weeks, Executive Director Benny Carreiro said.

Others may be joining the lunch crowd at Our Daily Bread at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Taunton, said Director Margaret Jones. "I have seen some new faces," she said, "but, we're 'no questions asked.'"
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Re: Homeless protest for food in Brockton
21 Sep 2005
If there's anybody who lives in or close to Brockton maybe a Food Not Bombs type project would be a good idea.
Re: Homeless protest for food in Brockton
21 Sep 2005
How about a jobs program instead?
Re: Homeless protest for food in Brockton
22 Sep 2005
Homeless people should get a job.