Citizens Energy President Joseph P. Kennedy II today announced the addition of a Newbury Street homeless shelter to the company’s Shelter Winter Assistance Program.
Citizens Energy currently pays the winter heating bills for 150 emergency homeless shelters in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The program, launched in 1987, allows shelters to allocate their scarce resources to other critically needed services.
The Safe Haven Shelter, located in the basement of Emmanuel Church along Boston’s upscale shopping boulevard, provides overnight beds and day services to homeless women with severe mental illness who have resisted conventional care. Safe Haven, the only shelter of its kind in the Bay State, is run by Tri-City Mental Health and Retardation Center in Medford.
“At a time of widening economic prosperity, we have a responsibility to help those left behind -- especially the most vulnerable,” said Kennedy. “We are proud to work with Tri-City to provide a safe haven for women who in some cases have been living on the street for decades.”
“It takes a coalition from the private and public sectors to come together and think strategically to make a program like this work. This is a very different model program, which addresses the needs of the most fragile homeless population in Boston,” said Tom Lorello, director of outreach services for Tri-City Mental Health.
With rising housing prices and soaring medical costs, demands for emergency shelter services have skyrocketed in Massachusetts, where an estimated 25,000 people were homeless at some point last year. For the first time ever, shelters were running above capacity last summer. An additional 700 bed were added last year to the 4,400 across the state to house the overflow, but even the added capacity is being strained.
Meanwhile, shelter workers are reporting a spike in the numbers of young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 seeking services. Experts attribute the rise being attributed to young adults leaving foster care or the criminal justice system without adequate provisions for housing. Elderly residents are also seeking emergency shelter as they fall victim to rising housing prices.