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Serving the Homeless

“People who are homeless are not social inadequates. They are people without homes.”
— Sheila McKechnie, Housing Campaigner and Activist


Shelter is one of the basic necessities of life, and a right of every citizen, yet housing has reached a crisis level in our country. The lack of affordable housing, discrimination, mental health issues, loss of income, and severe family conflict directly contribute to homelessness. While hundreds of thousands struggle with homelessness, millions more are living paycheck to paycheck and are at risk of becoming homeless. One unexpected event, like a car breaking down, can put them on the street. The homeless represent the most vulnerable portion of Americans living in poverty. (National Coalition for the Homeless)

Homelessness (also known as a state of being unhoused and unsheltered) “is the condition of lacking stable, safe, and functional housing.” Homelessness does not apply just to individuals. Families with children, especially single mothers, make up 30% of the homeless population, and unaccompanied youth (ages 18-25) account for 6% of the larger group.

The total homelessness count in Massachusetts in 2020 was 17,975, with 670 people In Essex County. Gloucester is currently working to address the housing crisis. For example, a new affordable housing project for seniors is currently under construction on the site of the former YMCA, and Mayor Greg Varga has proposed building a number of affordable housing units in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.


Food For Thought:


-- nationwide, an estimated 700,000 unaccompanied youth without a parent or guardian experience homelessness each year,  stemming from parental abuse or neglect and/or severe family conflict;

--experiencing homelessness as a child may lead to neurological changes in the brain which can hinder learning, the handling of emotions, and the forging of relationships;

--veterans are more likely to experience homelessness than non-veterans often due to mental health issues caused by traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);

--homeless people have an average life expectancy of 50 years due to chronic health issues;

--the homeless have high rates of mental illness, substance abuse, and previous incarceration.


Resources in Gloucester That Address Homelessness


Action Inc. offers affordable housing and homelessness prevention, fuel assistance and energy conservation programs, and education and job training to individuals in need. Through the Housing First program, adults with disabilities and long histories of homelessness can receive permanent housing and supportive services.

The North Shore Community Health/Gloucester Family Health Center provides healthcare for the homeless services, and Eliot Community Human Services offers on-site mental health counseling at the shelter. The Open Door provides food on a weekly basis to stock the shelter’s kitchen. Shelter guests receive bagged lunches generously donated by the Cape Ann Interfaith Commission.

Wellspring House, through its Emergency Shelter for Families programs provides housing, resources, and financial assistance to local families who are experiencing homelessness, or trying to avoid a crisis. The Emergency Shelter for Families Program helps to house 5 families at a time in Gloucester, and provides stabilization case management to families on the North Shore. The Homeless Prevention Phone Line is in place for people who are facing a housing crisis, and Wellspring’s Homeless Prevention Fund provides mini grants for clients to keep them employed and housed. All clients and guests have access to Wellspring’s job training, education, and career readiness programs to become financially stable. 


Grace Center, now located at 264 Main Street, serves as a day resource center for men and women who are in need of a safe and supportive environment. Founded in 2003, Grace Center provides numerous services and offers referrals to partner agencies for mental health and substance abuse treatment, medical care, job training, and housing. Meals and companionship also contribute to providing a safety net for those in need.


Something To Talk About


Everyone needs a place to call home. According to Gloucester’s most recent needs assessment (2020), adequate housing, as well as poverty, are two of the greatest concerns facing the Gloucester community. While we at St. John’s are not going to be the ones to solve the issue, we can seriously address the challenges of homelessness, and, and thus be part of the solution.


“What if” this is an opportunity to practice the “way of love,” and grow our Beloved Community? Could we collaborate with existing organizations to help meet the needs of this population? Something to talk about moving forward.


Resources/Reports Cited:, Council of Economic Advisors, U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, US News and World Report, National Alliance to End Homelessness, American Institutes for Research

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