PROVINCETOWN — One of the major donors to the Homeless Prevention Council’s recent Walk for Home campaign was a team from the Provincetown middle school’s National Junior Honor Society.
“We like to help out and work towards getting change because we see what’s happening to our friends,” said Shakira Booker, a seventh-grader who, with her teammates, joined the organization’s fifth annual walk on Commercial Street on Saturday, June 10. The middle-school students attended the march with a plethora of hand-drawn signs advocating housing solutions.
Students at the event talked about friends, family members, and teachers who have experienced housing instability or had to move off Cape because of it. “It’s really upsetting because we create relationships with people,” said eighth-grader Eve Dower. “And then, just based on housing, we have to never see them again.”
Her classmate Margot Stern said, “Many of our friends have had to move way out. It’s just unacceptable when they need to go to school, and they have to travel an hour on the bus.”
“My class is doing a project about a problem we want to fix in the world,” said Provincetown fifth-grader De-Mario Ferguson. “My partner and I did homeless prevention. So that’s why we are walking.”
Hadley Luddy, CEO of the Homeless Prevention Council, says she thinks it’s important for students to have the chance to say how the housing crisis affects them. “We want young people to be at the table,” Luddy said.
Teams from WOMR-FM, Saint Mary of the Harbor in Provincetown, and from Saint Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Chatham were other big contributors to the walk.
Besides being a fundraiser, the walk is meant to raise awareness about the hardest-to-see effects of housing instability on the Lower Cape. Luddy said it’s true that the lack of housing solutions is pushing Lower Cape residents further up or off the Cape altogether.
“We know that 50 percent of our workforce comes from off Cape,” said Luddy, “so our focus right now is to double down on serving the folks that are here to make sure that we’re able to keep them here.”
And while local governments and organizations have been taking steps to support the development of more affordable housing, there is little institutional support for people trying to remain in their current homes, according to Luddy.
A broad range of people are affected by the crisis, she said. “We get call after call from people of all ages,” said Luddy, “everything from young adults who are couch surfing or sleeping in their cars to seniors who call and say, ‘I’ve lost my rental of 20 years, it’s being sold, what can I do, where can I go?’ ”
Her organization, which has been around since 1991, connects Lower Cape residents experiencing housing instability with a case manager. Last year the HPC helped 1,078 households stay in their homes, Luddy said. None had to enter a homeless shelter, she said. The nearest shelter to Provincetown, St. Joseph House in Hyannis, is more than an hour’s drive away.
The HPC ended the day a few thousand dollars short of its $60,000 fundraising goal, but Luddy said she is confident they will close that gap in the coming days.
The Walk for Home followed two roads this year, Commercial Street in Provincetown and Main Street in Chatham, said Mackenzie Perry, the Provincetown case manager for the HPC. “It’s important to see how we can all come together and support each other,” she said. “Especially the ones who might be flying under the radar. We’re here to give them a voice.”
Shakira Booker knows how to make sure others aren’t left behind. “I see what’s happening to my friends,” she said. “I put myself in their shoes, and I feel it with them.”