Need for Homeless Shelter Grows in Boston

Five weeks after he lost his job as an executive and lost his home in the North End, Peter Boyle is among the thousands who will be counted in the 35th annual Boston homeless census by workers and volunteers, on foot and in vans.

"I made some bad decisions and had a lot of bad luck to go along with it," said Boyle. "It put me in a situation that I couldn't overcome."

For now, Boyle lives at Pine Street Inn, assigned a number for the night in a lottery.

"I've been fortunate enough to be one of the guys to be lucky enough to have a bed every night," he said. "It's been a blessing and I thank God for it."

From its beacon alongside the expressway in the city's South End, Pine Street will fill all 450 of these beds for men, plus 110 more for women again Wednesday night.

The overflow in this bitter cold, topping one hundred, will be in cots in the lobby.

And that's just a fraction of the 7,255 homeless people counted last year, a rise of 3.8 percent.

Pine Street's executive director, Lyndia Downie, expects it to be up again this year.

"The rental market, the changes with the city's program with the bridge, and the weather, has all really been a bit of a perfect storm for us," she said.

She says funding has not gone up with that need, particularly in losing substance abuse treatment facilities.

Boyle is comforted knowing he can turn to the assistance that's here now, no matter how overcrowded and underfunded, to help him find his way.

"I thought I understood what it was like to be homeless, but you don't until you're actually homeless, and you'd see everything that you had taken away from you, and you really are bare-bones on everything," he said. "I used to have hundreds of dollars in my pocket, and now I have like $4."

Beginning at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Mayor Marty Walsh, city officials and 300 volunteers will fan out throughout the city. Volunteers hope to help get people into programs and shelters, and eventually find permanent housing.

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