The young man, in his early twenties, leaned against the wall exhausted by the effort to stand. He sighed deeply, turned to Bridget Shaheen, Executive Director of Lazarus House and said, “You know I sleep under the bridge. Sometimes it’s so cold out, that when I shut my eyes to sleep, I’m never sure if I will wake up in the morning.”
With the winter nights of New England dipping into bitterly cold, single-digit temperatures, it can make for very harsh conditions for people who live on the streets or in abandoned buildings. To respond to the need on these frigid nights, an announcement is made at the Good Shepherd Community Center and Soup Kitchen (Center) to spread the word throughout Lawrence, “We will be open tonight to serve anyone who has nowhere else to go.”
This temporary shelter has been seeing a lot of activity these last few weeks. Guests arrive in the evening and set their belongings down by a cot; then, they enjoy a hot meal from the soup kitchen. Many of the people who arrive are eager to crawl into bed after a long day out in the cold. Each person’s story of their experience living on the street is unique.
Arriving after midnight, a twenty-four year old mother with her infant knocked on the Center door in an extreme state of distress. A few hours before, she had been told to leave an apartment where she had been staying with a distant relative. Unfamiliar with the city, and afraid for their safety, she and her 18 month old baby took to the streets in the bitter cold. Fortunately, someone saw her and gave her directions to the Center. On arrival she was welcomed by caring volunteers and staff. The next day she received assistance from one of our social workers and is now safely living in the emergency shelter at Holly Street.
With each passing night, more and more people have been able to escape the unbearable cold by coming to the Center. Tonight, the doors will open at 8 p.m. and each guest will be welcomed by staff members and volunteers handing out pillows, blankets, warm food and comforting conversation. These compassionate people are gathering together to make sure that no one is left outside in a battle to survive.