April 29th, Immigration and Boston; April 22nd, Healthcare for the Homeless

posted Apr 26, 2012, 8:50 AM by Amelia Fannin   [ updated May 2, 2012, 10:53 AM by in apropos ]
Summary of Immigration and Boston Discussion
Peter Vanderwarker, an architect, photographer and Grace Church member, presented "A Tattered Map of Hope; Immigration and the Shaping of Boston" at the April 29 Grace Discussion Group.  Through photographs and maps, Peter described how immigrants had changed the city and how their descendants had become successful citizens and leaders.  He focused on several parts of Boston and how they had changed through the years.

On the current site of International Place at 100 Oliver St, Fort Hill stood during during colonial times.  It was a fort during the Revolution with excellent views of the harbor.  When a military fort was no longer needed, it was made into a park, Ft Hill Square.  By 1840 it had become a slum and home to a large number of Irish immigrants.  On June 11, 1837, several hundred Irish mourners collided with Yankee firemen returning from a fire and a huge fight ensued - the Broad Street Riot.  The city decided they had to clean up the area and later removed the fort and the hill it was on.  Atlantic Ave was made with the dirt from the hill.

In 1914, James Michael Curley, the descendant of Irish parents who grew up in poverty in the South End, was elected mayor of Boston.  He served four non-consecutive terms and has a park named for him at 1 Union Street in Boston.  Of course the Kennedys are the most famous descendants of Irish immigrants to rise in business and politics.  

Peter explained that the location of the JFK museum and library, Harbor Point, has the largest number of foreign-born residents in Boston and is the most ethnically diverse.  Information on Boston's population is online at the 2010 census website.  The north end of Boston has also been an area where many immigrants settled - in the mid 1800's, the Irish settled there, then Jews from Eastern Europe, and then Italians.

Peter is the author of several books about Boston, including "The Big Dig" and co-author of "Cityscapes of Boston" with Robert Campbell.  His next photography show will be at Gallery NAGA at Church of the Covenant in Boston.  Peter's website is 

- Leslie Lockhart

Summary of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Discussion
presented April 22nd.

A person is considered homeless when he or she lacks a fixed, stable and adequate night time residence.  This means that a person might sleep in a shelter or on the street.  It would also include people who are “under housed”.  These individuals would be living in hotels/motels, crowded in with other relatives, or moving frequently from one “home” to another (couch surfing)

There are many different types of individuals who become homeless.  Children under 18 account for 39% of the homeless, and     almost half of them are under 5.  Families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.

2/3 of single homeless people who are homeless are male.  Sadly 40% of them are veterans. A growing number of these are veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who have head injuries, PTSD and substance abuse problems. Another population of people who are at high risk of homelessness are youth coming out of foster care.

The causes of homelessness are varied and complex. However, they can be briefly summarized into a few commons categories.  Half of all women, children and youths who become homeless are fleeing domestic violence or abuse     Poverty is also common, and has been exacerbated recently by the ballooning number of home foreclosures.   In addition, addiction, alcoholism and untreated mental illness are significant factors

We may look at the homeless as in need of immediate help and provide charity in the form of food pantries, clothing drives and other short term fixes.  However,  I would prefer to consider eradicating the reasons why people become homeless in the first place. Consider the ways that we can accomplish this”:
•    Advocate for affordable housing
•    Support regulations that force banks to negotiate with property owners rather than foreclose the properties
•    Advocate for improved educational opportunities that lead to better jobs
•    Work to prevent domestic violence and protect women and children
•    Support funding for drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs
•    Advocate for adequate funding for mental health services
There are a number of wonderful organizations that work to end homelessness.  This past year I have been bringing students once a week to Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program in Boston. BHCHP's integrated model of care includes primary care, behavioral health care and dental care. Patients also receive support from case managers who assist them in applying for benefits, identify housing and training opportunities, and coordinate with other service providers. In addition, BHCHP operates a 104 bed medical respite care facility for patients too sick for life in shelter or on the street but not quite sick enough to occupy an acute care hospital
BHCHP provides health care at over 80 locations in the greater Boston area: soup kitchens, family and domestic violence shelters, overnight and day shelters and in two hospital based clinics (Mass General Hospital and Boston Medical Center) The integrated care model at BHCHP unites physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, case managers and behavioral health professionals in a close collaboration. They follow patients together and separately in a variety of settings: on the street, at Barbara McInnis House, in our outpatient clinics and, as needed, in shelter or housing.

This program is only one of many who are actively helping to decrease the impact of homelessness and to help people live better, healthier lives. Perhaps you would consider working to end the causes of homelessness?

Nancy Sharby for Grace Discussion Group