Boston’s 8th annual Winter Walk is set to return on Sunday, February 11th with a two-mile walk around city streets in an effort to raise awareness and funds to end homelessness. This year’s walk accommodates for the increase of expected participants—quadruple that since the first walk—with the shift of location from Copley Square to Boston Common.
Started in 2017 by technology entrepreneur Paul English, the Winter Walk has grown beyond a once-a-year event to become a non-profit organization with the same name and mission. The efforts to end homelessness extended to New York last year, where organizers of Boston’s Winter Walk were able to launch an additional movement. New York City will be host to another walk this winter.
Massachusetts was host to two walks last year: one in Boston and another in Western Massachusetts. Boston’s upcoming walk combines the two separate movements, bringing together Boston and Western Massachusetts as one.
Besides the annual walks, the organization has also expanded its outreach to education through year-round collaboration with schools and communities, enabling spaces for youth to listen to stories and hold conversations about homelessness.
“We hear statistics and sometimes we can ignore them because they do not represent an individual human. But when we hear a person’s story, we can learn that each person is completely different. We understand them better,” said Paulina Kusiak Daigle, executive director at Winter Walk.
Whether it be a simple hello or a kind gesture, Daigle is optimistic that this year’s walk will establish a stronger sense of solidarity among the community, changing everyday interactions for the better. She hopes that participants will leave the event with a new perspective on the stigma surrounding homelessness, and how it can happen to anyone.
“Often people hear stories and assume many stereotypes about homelessness, like that there’s a certain group of people affected or that those affected were abusing some substances. Sometimes people think they know exactly what happened, but that’s not true,” Daigle said.
This year, Boston’s Winter Walk will be hosted by Dr. Jim O’Connell, founder of Boston Health Care for the Homeless. O’Connell has supported the homeless for nearly 40 years and has helped to shape the mission of the Winter Walk.
Organizers of this year’s walk aim to raise half a million dollars, having narrowly missed the same fundraising goal last year. Learn more about the Winter Walk here.