Boston’s street homelessness rate has dropped more than 20% since 2020, according to the City of Boston 2021 Census Memo.
In an effort to “mitigate the impact of homelessness” and contribute to the fight to see these changes in Boston, the Helping Hands for the Homeless Club at Boston University began an item collection drive. It started Feb. 24 in collaboration with On The Rise, a non-profit women’s shelter in Cambridge.
The drive, which ends Thursday, is collecting shampoo, conditioner, body wash, makeup, combs, headphones, hand sanitizer and masks from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the George Sherman Union entryway.
Jack McGinn, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, is currently working at the drive table and said tackling the problem of homelessness in a large area such as Boston requires a “multifaceted approach.”
“We acknowledge that we just as a student organization don’t really have the power to [end homelessness],” McGinn said. “But we do have the power to help those people that are currently experiencing homelessness and in need of certain support services.”
The drive has cultivated an environment where everyone wants to help and it has received a positive response, he said.
“I have been really pleasantly surprised with how many donations we‘ve gotten and just how giving the community has been,” McGinn said.
Maddison Larsen-Molina, a sophomore in CAS and treasurer for the drive, initiated the process of collecting donations and collaborating with On The Rise — an organization with a mission to provide secure housing to the homeless and an inclusive environment to those who are structurally oppressed on the basis of gender.
Larsen-Molina said that, after the club “deactivated” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, service opportunities have been hard to access since returning to campus.
“With COVID, a lot of places aren’t accepting help like they do service days where you come and cook food or get people ready to move on with their lives,” Larsen-Molina said. “So those are just very limited.”
She said she hopes the drive can exceed the club’s “own expectations.”
“Honestly, we weren’t really expecting a lot, especially because we really don’t have that many members and we’re not that well connected with the community so far,” Larsen-Molina said. “But we’ve already started collecting stuff … and so that’s really all I could hope for.”
After seeing a flyer at the 808 Gallery, Jack Terzian, a sophomore in CAS, knew he wanted to join the Helping Hands for the Homeless club and the drive.
“I grew up 30 minutes away from Boston in Westwood, MA and feel connected to those who reside here,” Terzian wrote in an email.
Terezian said many people just walking through the GSU have taken an interest in donating.
“The student response toward the drive has been phenomenal with such short notice during midterm week and makes me proud to be a part of the Boston University community,” Terzian wrote. “We have received numerous donations and more interest than I would have expected since we are a new organization.”
Larsen-Molina noted the many contributions came as a surprise because of uncertainty about whether the club would actually be “proactive within the community.”
“People’s attitudes definitely have changed because they realized that we’re actually doing something now and it’s something that is really easy for them to engage with,” Larsen-Molina said.
As the drive continues, McGinn highlighted the necessity of helping those at On The Rise.
“My hope is that we continue to get as much supplies and donations as possible,” McGinn said. “ And help brighten their day and help support them as they navigate the challenges that they’re facing right now,” McGinn said.