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GoLocalWorcester: 1-on-1 with Cong. McGovern on Worcester Homelessness

Friday, February 19, 2016

 

Congressman Jim McGovern

On Thursday night  Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02) stayed overnight at the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Worcester. 

The facility is a homeless shelter for families with children on June Street. McGovern’s motivation is to bring attention to the issue of homelessness and help draw attention and donations to the issue and the shelter.

In an interview with GoLocalWorcester, the Congressman outlined why he is so passionate about the need to create change for homeless individuals and families in Central Massachusetts.

So Congressman, this is your second time doing an overnight at a shelter  What were the big takeaways from last time -- what did you learn, and what were the biggest surprises?

McGovern: The one thing -- this is a family shelter -- and it's a special place, it's home for 6 families and it truly is a remarkable place. What I learned last time was that the people that are here defy stereotypes.  They're working, but they're earning so little they can't pay rent, but oftentimes earn just that much they don't qualify for programs for people who don't work. The safety net in place has some holes in it, 

If it weren't for places like the Interfaith hospitality network, I don't know what families would do.  It's a nice house, and the people who volunteer here are incredible and there's a sense of community.  All the kids are happy, and they have smiles on their faces.  I make it a point to not only talk about what a place 

Now there are those who will say that doing this is a stunt, like those lawmakers who eat for a week on minimum wage or the federal poverty level.  What would you say to those detractors?

McGovern: What this is is an effort to create awareness so that people will to do something.  When I lived on the food stamp diet -- no one had any idea what it was.  I was on the Agriculture Committee, and no one know -- and they were shocked to learn it was $1.40 per meal per person.  You can barely get a cup of coffee for that. The whole point is that people learned the benefit was inadequate and we need to do something about it.  

We have a lot of families facing challenging times and I'm trying to put a face to these families -- so we don't simply talk about statistics or the challenges in a way that is impersonal.  This is an incredible, loving place. and it needs help from the community. And it costs a lot of money to maintain this place.  They get leaks like everyone else does. -- there's a cost here.  The hope is the community comes together and supports places like this.  We want to show that places like this exist.

What are the biggest issues facing the homeless in Worcester currently?

McGovern: There are not enough beds, I can tell you that. Just yesterday my office got a call from a young woman looking for a place and we had a tough time to find a bed available -- and we hear from people all the time, and we do everything we can to find places for they call.  There are people who don't even think to call.  That is a problem.

We need to understand when it comes to families -- we need a place with normalcy and a place that's clean and safe and good and the kids feel comfortable.   

Let's talk about achievements -- what has the delegation, what have elected officials -- and community leaders -- been able to do?

McGovern: I look look at the Interfaith Hospitality network as a success story.  It's wonderful. It's a home in every sense of the word, and people feel at home, and families with children have place that is this warm and welcoming and a blessing.  

We're trying to raise awareness that wonderful places like this exist -- and the government isn't doing nearly enough to deal with the challenges of poverty and homelessness in this country.. There's not enough we can do in the immediate term, but in the immediate term members of the community can come together. I'm on a task force with Bishop Reilly to get the funds necessary for the shelter. 

 

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