Monday, June 24, 2024

Ten years ago, in December, while volunteering at the Tuesday Meals Program at First Parish, I struck up a conversation with an unhoused woman. I asked her what the city could do to be more supportive, thinking she was going to talk about housing, health care or job opportunities. Instead, she simply asked for a warm blanket to keep her warm. That night the Cambridge Winter Warmth Drive was born.

In partnership with First Parish, the Harvard Square Business Association and later the Central Square Business Improvement District, I began a yearly fundraising campaign to raise money to buy blankets and sleeping bags for Cambridge’s unhoused people. Over the years we have raised almost $200,000 and bought hundreds of sleeping bags and socks that we distribute with our shelter partners. The bags have become an important part of keeping our unhoused neighbors warm. Of course, we know that this is just a Band-Aid. We know that people need housing, not sleeping bags, but given that we don’t have enough housing for everyone, we must also make sure we are meeting people’s immediate needs – and these bags have been called “lifesavers” by the people who use them.

I am turning to the Cambridge community to help raise the $20,000 we need this year to buy 200 sleeping bags. Thus far we have raised $9,000, so we are almost halfway there. The sooner we raise the rest, the sooner we can buy the bags and get them to those in need. If you would like to make a financial contribution, please donate here.

Some folks have asked if we take used sleeping bags. We do not. But if you would like to donate used bags, you can take them to Caspar at 240 Albany St., Cambridgeport.Thank you so much for always showing up for this effort and making a difference in people’s lives.

The writer is a Cambridge city councillor.