Harsh winter has been especially tough for Boston's homeless

Mack Donohue, who has been homeless since 2008, pushes a shopping cart holding his belongings between snow banks and traffic in Boston, Feb. 27. Reuters photo via Newscom/Brian Snyder

BOSTON -- Even as the spring thaw begins to make its appearance in Boston, it's not hard to remember the single digit temperatures and record-level snowfall that made this winter tough for just about everybody in Greater Boston.

Perhaps those who suffered most in this time were the city's homeless, who rely on emergency shelters, donations and facilities to stay warm during the day.

"Homeless people are like the rest of us and they are subject to the elements as we all are. The only thing is they don't have a roof over their heads," said Joseph Burnieika, director of Catholic Charities Greater Boston.

The homeless, Burnieika said, are often at the whim of shelter vacancies. Catholic Charities assists almost 200 homeless people on a regular basis in its five shelters in the archdiocese.

"It has been a difficult winter for those who have not have been able to find housing," Burnieika said.

At St. Cecilia Parish in Boston's Back Bay, which has an active outreach ministry that assists the poor and homeless, parishioners have seen the toll that winter can take on homeless people.

"We have one parishioner who is a nurse at Boston Healthcare for the Homeless, and she's been treating a lot of people with frostbite on their feet. The tragic reality is that oftentimes she's sending them back out in the snow and cold and they're wearing nothing more than sneakers and lightweight shoes," said Mark Lippolt, the Homelessness and Hunger Ministry leader at St. Cecilia.

Lippolt said St. Cecilia parishioners have collected donations to purchase boots and other warm-weather gear. Lippolt and parishioners volunteer in a myriad of charitable and social justice activities, including volunteering at the Pine Street Inn, an emergency homeless shelter at 444 Harrison Ave.

Lippolt said the shelters where parishioners volunteer have seen increases in people seeking services since the Long Island Bridge shelter closed in October. Mayor Martin J. Walsh's administration has been working to replace the beds, programs and services that were lost when Long Island shuttered.

Still, Long Island Bridge's closing has put a significant strain on other homeless service providers, including St. Francis House, the largest day shelter in New England that is located in the heart of downtown Boston.

"The biggest strain has been on the people we serve, the homeless men and women themselves," said Karen LaFrazia, executive director of St. Francis House.

LaFrazia said St. Francis House has seen a 36 percent increase in the number of people who are being provided clothing, as well as an 11 percent increase in meals served, since Long Island Bridge's closing. Also, St. Francis House began opening its doors earlier this winter after the staff saw a spike in the number of people who were showing up at the door before 7 a.m.

"When the Bridge went down, it was traumatic for our guests," LaFrazia said. "They live a very unstable life and shelters are the only stability that exists in their lives. It's their source of nourishment, both physical and spiritual.

"The bridge's closure was very disruptive for everybody. A bad situation was exacerbated by the worst winter we've had in recent memory. I think those two things colliding together have really put a strain on homeless men and women and the organizations that help them, including St. Francis House," LaFrazia said.

A number of downtown churches set up day shelters to take in people displaced by Long Island's closing, said Lippolt, who added that he has also seen an increase in the number of people showing up at the Pine Street Inn and the Women's Lunch Place, a daytime center on Newbury Street for poor and homeless women and their children.

Homelessness appears to be an entrenched problem in Boston. The 2013-14 annual Census of Boston's homeless population found 7,255 homeless people in the city. That represented a 3.8 increase from the 6,647 homeless men, women and children who were counted the previous year.

According to a December 2014 report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Boston has more residents living in emergency shelters than any of the 25 major cities listed in the report.

St. Cecilia Parish has long recognized the need to assist the city's homeless, and parishioners volunteer year-round by serving dinner at the Pine Street Inn, collecting food donations for Catholic Charities' food pantry in Dorchester, and collecting toiletries and other items for guests at the Women's Lunch Place, among other activities.

"As a parish, we're very mindful of Matthew 25," Lippolt said. "We are a very affluent parish that believes to whom much is given, much is expected. I think it's only right that we're doing what we're doing. We have the resources to do it.

"These are our neighbors," Lippolt added. "They may have fallen on hard times and have different economic circumstances, but they are most definitely our neighbors."

Burnieika said donors and volunteers have been particularly generous to Catholic Charities, especially with donating food and clothing.

"They've really stepped up," Burnieika said.

"We've seen an outpouring of compassion and concern from so many people," said LaFrazia, adding that parishes have organized food drives, offered their second collections and sent groups of volunteers to help out at St. Francis House.

"Until you walk in their shoes, it's hard to know what homelessness is like, how it robs you of your dignity," LaFrazia said. "You realize these are our brothers and sisters, and they're not so different from the rest of us."

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...