Food Deliveries and Budget Season Continue!

Dear friends, 

I hope you all had a restful and reflective Memorial Day weekend, and to our Muslim neighbors and friends, I hope you had a blessed Eid. 

Last week, we distributed an additional 580 boxes of food to the West End and Beacon Hill, where we have many low-income and senior buildings with residents in need of better access to food. Once again, we had an amazing crew of volunteers! I am continuously grateful to those of you who have done deliveries with us, as well as those of you who continue to phone bank and check on your neighbors.

I am also thankful for Representatives Livingstone and Michlewitz and their staff, as well as the staff at Blackstone, Amy Lowell, Beacon House, Peter Faneuil, and Bowdoin School Apartments who partnered with us to organize and execute the delivery. As always, we are fortunate to work with the folks from the Mayor’s Office of Food Access, the AgeStrong Commission, the BPDA food operations team, and the Greater Boston Food Bank — plus the Building Trades workers who help pack the boxes, and the drivers who get them to us. Thanks to the Boston Resiliency Fund for financing this delivery.

The Council’s initial review of the proposed FY21 budget concludes this week, to be followed by further evaluation of the changing revenue picture, but there is still time to submit testimony. Our final budget hearing will be tonight (Thursday) at 6PM, and it is dedicated to public testimony. If you would like to watch you can do so via the livestream. If you would like to testify, please join us at this Zoom link at 6PM, or you can submit testimony by emailing or submitting a video clip. This morning at 10AM we’ll be having a budget hearing focused on the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) and the city’s Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), and one focused on the BPDA at 2PM; these can also be watched via the Council’s livestream as well. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office if you are in need of anything during this time. You can also visit my website for information on a variety of resources. If this newsletter was forwarded to you or if a friend or neighbor would like to sign up to receive future newsletters, please fill out this form.

With thanks,

Kenzie

St Joseph’s Meal Site

We are thrilled to announce that St Joseph’s Church in the West End is now an official City of Boston meal site, providing free, prepared meals for adults and kids Monday through Friday from 10:00am to 12:00pm. St Joseph’s Church is located in the West End at 68 O’Connell Way. All are welcome! 

St Joseph’s prepared meals program is run by the Mayor’s Office of Food Access, with partnership from our office and State Representative Jay Livingstone’s office. If you have any questions about the program, please call the folks at St. Joseph’s Church at 617-523-4342.

Tufts University Emergency Grants for Local Nonprofits

Tufts University will be awarding one-time $1,000 emergency grants to local nonprofits in Boston, Medford, Somerville, and Grafton. The program was established to help address pressing community needs which may include food insecurity, emergency equipment purchases, or educational supply needs. For the Boston grants, they are focused on organizations serving our neighbors in Boston’s Chinatown, Fenway, and Mission Hill. Since applications will be accepted on a rolling basis (until funds are exhausted), interested organizations are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. Applicants must be registered 501(c)(3)s.

You can learn more about the program here and apply to the Boston/Grafton program here.  

Should you have any questions, you can contact Tufts University Government & Community Relations at 617-627-3780 or by email at communityrelations@tufts.edu.

Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities & Ways to Give

Call District 8 Elders and Neighbors 

  • Our amazing volunteers have begun calling elders and neighbors throughout District 8. If you would be up for making calls but missed the training sessions please watch this training video and email Emily.Brown2@boston.gov to be provided with phonebanking links. 
  • Specifically, if you speak Russian, we could use help reaching out to Russian-speaking elders. 

Historian’s Corner: Soldiers and Sailors Monument

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which stands in the Boston Common, honors the soldiers and sailors who died during the Civil War. The monument was designed by American sculptor Martin Milmore. At the monuments dedication on September 17, 1877, approximately 25,000 people attended, including Union Generals George B. McClellan and Joseph Hooker.  

Its inscription reads “To the men of Boston who died for their country on land and sea, in the war which kept the Union whole, destroyed slavery, and maintained the Constitution, the grateful city has built this monument, that their example may speak to coming generations.” This photograph was taken on Monday evening; the ordinary display of a flag for every Massachusetts casualty of war in our nation’s history was reduced this year in light of the ongoing public health emergency. 

Mission Park Produce Delivery: Success!

Dear friends, 

Last week, we were able to deliver an additional 1,100 boxes of fresh produce from Katsiroubas Brothers and Fresh Truck to District 8 residents! This time, our incredible volunteers helped us deliver produce boxes to residents of Mission Park, one of the most vibrant and diverse communities of elders and families in District 8. I am again so grateful to have such a dedicated community of people and partners. Thank you to everyone who volunteered and was involved in facilitating this major accomplishment last week.

I want to give a special shout out to Karen Gately, Lori Taylor, Laura Adams, and the whole team at Roxbury Tenants of Harvard (RTH), plus Nancy Weinstein and the whole team at Trinity Management who partnered with us to organize and execute the delivery.  They’re doing tremendous work to keep their residents safely housed every day. I’m also very grateful to everyone who signed up to volunteer, whether from the Mission Hill and Fenway neighborhoods, my Trinity Church community, or the Red Sox and Red Sox Foundation. Thanks again to the Mayor’s Office of Food Access, the AgeStrong Commission, and the food operations team for their unyielding support, to the folks at About Fresh and Katsiroubas Bros for the food and excellent truck-driving, and to the Boston Resiliency Fund for financing this delivery. Finally, this would not have come together without my staff — thanks again to Lauren, Emily, Henry, & Jon for all the invisible work they do behind the scenes!  

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office if you are in need of anything during this time. You can also visit my website for information on a variety of resources. If this newsletter was forwarded to you or if a friend or neighbor would like to sign up to receive future newsletters, please fill out this form.

With thanks,

Kenzie

Historian’s Corner: Mission Park

Delivering produce to the old neighborhood, which is still a part of Mission Park today. Toni Komst, a Mission Hill resident loading produce in this picture from last week, grew up in the part of Mission Hill that was later demolished.

Mission Park, owned by Roxbury Tenants of Harvard, consists of 1100 units of affordable housing and is home to a close knit community of elders in Mission Hill. Its existence today is a result of fierce advocacy to protect the neighborhood and its residents from displacement in the late 1960s, when Harvard University bought the homes along Francis, Fenwood, St. Alban’s, Kempton Streets, and part of Huntington Avenue. The University planned to evict residents, demolish their homes, and expand their medical campus, but residents like Theresa Parks, with the allyship of Harvard students Doug Levinson, Jeane Neville, and Hayden Duggan, organized and created the Roxbury Tenants of Harvard. After many negotiations with Harvard officials, by 1970, the University agreed to preserve some of the buildings as permanent housing and to provide replacement housing for homes that would have to come down as a result of future University needs. Eventually, through further deliberations with RTH, Harvard University provided assistance in building new housing on vacant land owned by Harvard. Construction of the newer Mission Park buildings began in October of 1975, and by 2000 RTH became the owner of Mission Park. Three of Mission Park’s buildings are named after the Harvard student organizers Doug Levinson, Jeane Neville, and Hayden Duggan. 

Delivering produce to the new buildings

District 8 Pets!

This week’s pets: Bunny Jean of The West End, Charlie of Beacon Hill, Cleo of Beacon Hill, and Jitterbug of Fenway

  • During the stay at home order, pets have benefited from the extra attention. We’d love for you to send photos of your pets to Lauren.Brody@boston.gov 
  • Please include your pet’s name and neighborhood and they will be featured in future newsletters.

Fenway Food Delivery: Success! Next Up: Mission Park!

Dear friends,

We are so fortunate to have such a supportive community of people and partners who want to help District 8 residents. I am so grateful to everyone who helped us get 470 boxes of produce from Katsiroubas Bros and Fresh Truck, funded by the Boston Resiliency Fund, to Fenway families in need on Tuesday! Next week, we will be delivering fresh produce to the residents of Mission Park, please see “Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities” below if you are interested in volunteering.

We were able to deliver produce boxes across the Fenway neighborhood, including to all the elderly residents of St Cecilia House and Morville House, to local congregate housing at Brooke House and Yearwood House, and to many individual households.

I want to give a special shout out to all of the organizations under the “Fenway Cares” banner who partnered with us to check in on families in need of these boxes and sign up volunteers, including Fenway Civic Association, Fenway Community Development Corporation, Fenway Community Center, Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association, Peterborough Senior Center, MissionSAFE, Operation P.E.A.C.E., and the Fenway Alliance. Thanks also to the staff of St Cecilia’s and Morville House for all their work, to Representative Jon Santiago for stopping by to help, and to the Red Sox and the Red Sox Foundation for sending volunteers and spreading the word. I’m grateful also to the Mayor’s Office of Food Access and Age Strong Commission for their partnership.

A huge thank you also for the ongoing work of our phonebank volunteers, who are calling elders across District 8! So far, our volunteers have made over 1,500 calls, and both my staff and Representative Livingstone’s staff have followed up with folks to connect them to needed services. Many neighbors have also kindly volunteered to follow up by making regular check in calls with elders that are socially isolated due to the public health emergency. We are so grateful for everyone who has been a part of this effort thus far! If you’re interested in making calls but missed the training session, please see “Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities” below. Specifically, if you speak Russian, we could use help reaching out to Russian-speaking elders. You can also read more about the effort in the Beacon Hill Times.

Finally, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office if you are in need of anything during this time. You can also visit my website for information on a variety of resources. If this newsletter was forwarded to you or if a friend or neighbor would like to sign up to receive future newsletters, please fill out this form.

With thanks,

Kenzie

Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities & Ways to Give

Help Deliver Food to Households in Mission Hill – Wednesday May 6th and Friday May 8th 

  • Volunteers needed to distribute 1,050 boxes of fresh produce to residents of Mission Park.
  • The delivery is divided over two days, Wednesday, May 6th and Friday, May 8th from 8:30am – 11:30am.
  • Volunteers will be given masks and gloves.
  • Please sign up here if you are interested in volunteering for either shift. Please email Lauren.Brody@boston.gov if you have any questions.

Call District 8 Elders and Neighbors 

  • Our amazing volunteers have begun calling elders and neighbors throughout District 8. If you would be up for making calls but missed the training sessions please watch this training video and email Emily.Brown2@boston.gov to be provided with phonebanking links. 
  • Specifically, if you speak Russian, we could use help reaching out to Russian-speaking elders. 

Pine Street Inn

  • As you may know, in an effort to get as many of our neighbors safely housed during this crisis as possible, the Pine Street Inn has recently opened an additional shelter for COVID-negative guests in a Suffolk University dorm on Beacon Hill.
  • They are looking for 2 volunteers for each meal shift to push a cart of packaged food, knock on doors and leave meals at each guest’s room on a number of floors. Masks and gloves will be provided to all volunteers.
  • Shift times: Breakfast 7:30am.  Lunch 11:30am.  Dinner 4:30pm. Volunteers should arrive 15 minutes before the beginning of the meal. The meal delivery should take no longer than one hour and fifteen minutes from the start time.
  • Volunteers will meet at the Miller Residence Hall, 10 Somerset Street, Boston, which is a dormitory of Suffolk University.
  • For more information call: Matthew Ferrer, Volunteer Administrative Coordinator, 617-892-9186

The Office of Representative Nika Elugardo is Collecting Donations to Purchase Gift Cards for Families In Need

  • Over $4000 has been raised so far for food and supplies for folks in need, and masks and PPE have been delivered to 150 youth and elders.
  • Additional donations will continue to help Tenant Task Forces and community partners to safely collect and distribute food and supplies to elders, people with disabilities, and school children.
  • To contribute, Venmo Krista Magnuson your donation at @kmagnuson. Krista buys the gift cards on your behalf, and Representative Elugardo delivers them to the district’s public housing developments and beyond as needed.
  • Don’t have the Venmo app? You can drop off grocery or other gift cards (denominations of $25 or less please) to Representative Elugardo’s house. You can email nika.elugardo@mahouse.gov to make sure she’s home. Representative Elugardo lives at 32 Sheridan Street #1 in Jamaica Plain.

Historian’s Corner: Morville House

On Tuesday, as a part of our efforts to deliver fresh produce to residents in the Fenway neighborhood, we delivered 170 boxes to elders living at Morville House. Morville House was developed by the Episcopal City Mission in 1971 for the purposes of allowing low income seniors to age in place. The Episcopal City Mission was incorporated in 1844 following a donation from William Appleton, who admired the work of two members of Trinity Church who ran a homeless shelter and Sunday school for homeless youth. In 1938, the first Morville House was built on Clarendon Street. Though the Episcopal City Mission has evolved and grown since its early years, it remains committed to carrying out racial and economic justice work in Massachusetts.

District 8 Pets!

This week’s pets (clockwise): Tommy of East Fenway, Whisper of Back Bay, and Fern of The West End

  • During the stay at home order, pets have benefited from the extra attention. We’d love for you to send photos of your pets to Lauren.Brody@boston.gov 
  • Please include your pet’s name and neighborhood and they will be featured in future newsletters.

Volunteer Opportunities & Happy (Belated) Earth Day!

Dear friends,

Happy (belated) Earth Day, and to our Muslim neighbors and friends, Ramadan Mubarak!

I’ve been chairing budget hearings a lot these past two weeks, and today’s was on the City’s capital budget. Funding a robust city capital budget, especially at this time when interest rates are so low and Boston’s credit rating remains very strong, is actually one of the most substantial “countercyclical” things that we can do through the local budgeting process to help counter a recession. But we also continue to need a serious capital budget because of all our pressing capital needs, and none is more pressing than the investments we must make to respond to the climate crisis. It’s worth noting this Earth Day that we simply don’t have the time as a society to recover from COVID-19, then turn our attention back to climate issues in a few years — so tackling the two will have to be utterly intertwined in all our recovery efforts.

In the spirit of Earth Day, which is very much a spirit of care for all creation, I thought I’d send along some opportunities to care for our neighbors. Below please find several upcoming volunteer opportunities.

I am so thankful for those of you who have already volunteered and continue to check in on your friends, family, and neighbors. With your help, we have already delivered food to hundreds families, made calls to elders across District 8, increased donations to the Resiliency Fund, and so much more.

Speaking of thankfulness, I never truly appreciated the tree outside my window until now. Lately I’ve been looking out at it every day as I meet with staff on Zoom calls, speak with constituents, and chair Ways and Means Committee hearings on our City Budget. The turn of the seasons, spring emerging out of winter, really is a good reminder of a deep capacity for resiliency, one that we will need to tackle both COVID-19 and the climate crisis

Gratefully yours,

Kenzie


Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities

Call District 8 Elders and Neighbors – this Saturday!

  • Our amazing volunteers have begun calling elders and neighbors throughout District 8. If you would be up for making calls, we are having a Phonebank Training on Saturday, April 25 at 1PM, hosted in partnership with the Offices of Representatives Nika Elugardo and Jay Livingstone.
  • Please sign up to volunteer here and the information for joining the training (via Zoom) will be sent to you in advance of the training.
  • If you would like to make calls, but can’t make the training, please email Emily.Brown2@Boston.gov

Help Deliver Food to Households in Fenway – Tuesday, April 28

  • In partnership with Fresh TruckKatsiroubas Bros. Produce, and Fenway Cares, we are delivering produce boxes to individuals and families in the Fenway area on Tuesday, April 28th, from 2:30 to 6:30 PM.
  • If you are interested in volunteering for any shift within this time, please sign up here!
  • These are no-contact deliveries, volunteers will be given masks and gloves.
  • Made possible by the Boston Resiliency Fund.

Help Deliver Food to Households in Mission Hill – Date TBA

  • We expect to be partnering with a Mission Hill organization around food access in the coming weeks. If you are interested in volunteering, please sign up here.

Pine Street Inn

  • As you may know, in an effort to get as many of our neighbors safely housed during this crisis as possible, the Pine Street Inn has recently opened an additional shelter for COVID-negative guests in a Suffolk University dorm on Beacon Hill.
  • They are looking for 2 volunteers for each meal shift to push a cart of packaged food, knock on doors and leave meals at each guest’s room on a number of floors. Masks and gloves will be provided to all volunteers.
  • Shift times: Breakfast 7:30am.  Lunch 11:30am.  Dinner 4:30pm. Volunteers should arrive 15 minutes before the beginning of the meal. The meal delivery should take no longer than one hour and fifteen minutes from the start time.
  • Volunteers will meet at the Miller Residence Hall, 10 Somerset Street, Boston, which is a dormitory of Suffolk University.
  • For more information call: Matthew Ferrer, Volunteer Administrative Coordinator, 617-892-9186

Historian’s Corner: The Fenway Victory Gardens!

The Fenway Victory Gardens, planted in 1941, are the oldest World War II Victory Gardens in the United States. Victory gardens were planted in the United States during the World Wars to increase food access locally, therefore enabling farmers to send more food to troops overseas. During wartime, other public land, including the Boston Common and Public Garden, was also used as victory gardens, but reverted to its original use. The Fenway Victory Gardens remain a vital part of the Fenway today; community gardeners plant flowers, fruit, and vegetables and care for the garden’s infrastructure. Visit The Fenway Victory Garden’s website to learn more! We’re thrilled that this year’s City’s capital budget is proposing to add a new project to create a more accessible path through all of the Back Bay Fens, so everyone can better appreciate this beautiful oasis in the heart of the city.


Send Us Photos of Your Pets!

  • During the stay at home order, pets have benefited from the extra attention. We’d love for you to send photos of your pets to Lauren.Brody@boston.gov 
  • Please include your pet’s name and neighborhood and they will be featured in future newsletters.

Budget Season Begins!

Dear friends, 

Budget season is upon us! The Mayor introduced a proposed budget last week, which the Council will formally consider over the next two months, prior to a vote. This year’s FY21 budget process is coming in the midst of great uncertainty, as our city grapples with the immediate challenges of COVID-19. This public health emergency will have enormous impacts on the budget for next year and the years to come – both in terms of government revenues and in terms of the needs we must meet for the people of Boston. Already the needs for food access, housing support, and business assistance are huge and only growing. So more than ever before, we can expect this year’s budget to be a work in progress, one that may have to change significantly over the next few months.

Nonetheless, the ongoing situation makes a public budgeting process all the more important. To the extent that we need to shift resources to address urgent problems, or make hard decisions because of more limited revenues, or take action on longstanding inequities and gaps exposed by this crisis, we need a diversity of voices involved in those decisions – both on the Council, and from the public.

As the Chair of Ways and Means, I’ve been working to adapt this year’s budget process to accommodate everyone participating from home. We’ll be conducting all working sessions and hearings on the Zoom platform, allowing constituents to submit video recordings of their questions or concerns in advance, and grouping departments together for hearings. You can learn about ways to get involved in the budget hearings here, see the proposed budget here, and view the Council’s budget review schedule here

This upcoming week the Council will be hosting several introductory hearings, including a budget overview by the Administration and Finance Department, a presentation on the City’s approach to revenue and assessing, and a summary of the proposed budget for the Boston Public Schools. You can watch the first hearing, which begins at 10AM today, here. You can also join us for a dedicated public testimony hearing on Thursday evening at 6pm to contribute your questions for the process ahead.

In other policy news, you can watch my recent interview with Chris Lovett on BNN here. We spoke about my resolution calling on property owners with vacancies to immediately rent to families with Housing Choice Vouchers, and about a number of other issues. 

Last Wednesday, both my resolution on renting to homeless families and another in support of the Mashpee Wampanoag were adopted. Along with Councilors Wu and Edwards, I also called for a hearing regarding targeted property tax deferral due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is definitely an opportunity for us to help property-owners struggling in this crisis, and reward landlords who take rent abatement action now or agree to greater rent affordability in the long term. On the other hand, our property tax receipts account for more than 70% of our city budget; they are the main source that funds all the most critical city services that our residents need now more than ever. The majority of Bostonians who don’t own any property are some of those being hardest hit by this crisis. So we must consider any tax abatement through an equity lens. 

None of this is quite what I expected to be tackling when I joined the Council back in January — but I’m glad to be serving in the important role of Ways & Means Chair as we confront these challenges together. We will need to exercise strong collective judgment over the coming months about what is the best way to budget for this pivotal year ahead, and I look forward to doing so with all your help.

With thanks,

Kenzie 

In the News

  • “‘The reality is we have 500 families right now in shelters with housing vouchers who have not found permanent housing, and I think we really need to seize this moment to solve that problem and get those families housed,’ said Councilor Kenzie Bok, a lead sponsor of a resolution calling on property owners to consider helping out.” Read more by Christopher Gavin 
  • “‘This COVID-19 crisis has really put a spotlight on all the weaknesses and injustices of our society,’ said Bok. ‘I think one thing it has shown us — which we already knew — is everyone needs a home to be safe.’” Read more by Kenneal Patterson
  • “‘I’ve seen so many Bostonians reaching out to help one another during this crisis already, and renting vacant apart­ments to families with vouchers is another crucial step.’” Read more in the Beacon Hill Times
  • “I think we all know that this year’s budget is going to be a work in progress,” said Bok on Wednesday. She added, “None of us quite know what the budget might need to look like in a month.” Read more in the Boston Globe.

A Prayer for This Season

Dear friends,

Passover and Holy Week blessings to all those who celebrate!

I was lucky enough to grow up as a Christian with Jewish godparents, whose seders were a fixture of my childhood, so it made me smile to see so many families continuing the Passover tradition virtually over the past two nights. The endurance of that festival across millennia, despite every historical challenge, is a comfort to us all in hard times like these. My own church community also gathered virtually last night for Maundy Thursday, to commemorate the love and fellowship at the heart of the Last Supper — which was itself a Passover meal, and began the Christian tradition of Holy Communion.

Though different, both Passover and Easter trace an arc towards a common hope and prayer: a people’s deliverance from death. Now more than ever, I feel that same prayer welling up in me on behalf of our city of Boston and all the people we love. We are relentless doers here in this city — we have opened a 1000-bed facility in less than a week, we have launched systems to feed and shelter those without, we have leapt to one another’s aid. We will keep doing everything we can and must to stop the spread of this virus and handle the surge in cases. But as we stand on the threshold of the week ahead, in the midst of a holy time for so many of us, I hope you will join me in also praying this evening for our city.

There is a Muslim tradition that this hour on Friday is a time in which prayers are most readily answered; in a couple more hours it will be Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath in the midst of Passover. In the Christian tradition, we marked a few hours ago the death of Christ on the cross.  

For some, these religious traditions are anchors in a storm like the present crisis. For others, it may seem futile to talk of faith when living in such times as ours, suddenly losing things and especially people that we love, and seeing every weakness and injustice of our society exposed. But in a strange way, this day — Good Friday — is the moment in the Christian calendar when those two perspectives meet. Today is the day, in my tradition, that death appears to triumph over all, the day the cry goes up “my God, why have you forsaken me?” We pray on this day in spite of grief and fear — not pretending it away.

I want to acknowledge the pain and anxiety that grips us in this moment — yet also make it my prayer that we will continue to find within ourselves reserves of love to beat back despair and forge hope into action. A year from now may we once again be sitting together in person at our holiday tables, a people transformed by our mutual care and giving thanks for our deliverance.

My love to you all,

Kenzie

April 7: Urgent Appeal – Get Our Families Housed!

Dear friends, 

I’m writing today with a very specific appeal: do you, or anyone you know, have a vacant apartment in Boston available to rent to one of our local families?

We have five hundred local families who are currently holding federal housing vouchers but have not yet found an apartment. In our City Council meeting tomorrow, I, and my colleague Annissa Essaibi-George, will be bringing forward a resolution urging any property owner with a vacancy in Boston — whether a single unit in a townhouse or a number of units across a multifamily portfolio — to reach out to the Boston Housing Authority and try to get one of our voucher-holder families safely housed in each vacant unit.

Now more than ever, it is imperative that Boston’s families who are staying in shelters or are otherwise homeless get access to permanent housing, where they can find stability and properly practice the physical distancing needed to reduce COVID-10 transmission. A recent Boston Globe article highlighted the extreme challenges of being homeless during this pandemic. 

As you may have seen, in a partnership between the Boston Housing Authority and the Boston Public Schools, 1,000 more local families experiencing homelessness will be issued vouchers in the coming months. Yet these vouchers will only serve to house these families in this emergency if property owners accept them. So I’ve been working with partners at the BHA to spread the word about this critical need.

Before becoming a city councilor, I was involved in a successful effort to allow our housing vouchers to pay more so that they can match market rents in most Boston neighborhoods. This means that they can provide important financial stability to landlords in this uncertain time, as the federal government guarantees the rent. 

Housing a family in this crisis is an act of great human solidarity and a concrete way that Bostonians of all means can help one another to safely weather this public health emergency. If you are a property owner with a vacancy, please go here to list that unit, or reach out to Thomas White at Thomas.White@bostonhousing.org or 617‐988‐4540. The BHA is committed to expediting its administrative processes to house voucher-holder families as quickly as possible during this time.

For many years, housing discrimination and administrative barriers have made it too difficult for our low-income families to use Housing Choice Vouchers to stay in Boston. This pandemic is highlighting every respect in which our society’s greatest injustices put us all at risk, and showing us what we already knew: that everyone needs a home to be safe. I’ve seen so many Bostonians reaching out to help one another during this crisis already, and renting vacant apartments to families with vouchers is another crucial step.

I will be speaking to the importance of this resolution at the City Council meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, April 8. The meeting starts at 12PM and can be watched on City Council TV here.

All the best,

Kenzie

April 6: COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Updates

Dear friends,

Hi again! I hope you all are doing well and are able to stay connected with family and friends through phone and video calls during this time. Yesterday, the Mayor announced new restrictions that are incredibly important to reducing the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). During the coming weeks, Coronavirus cases will likely peak in the Boston area, which means it’s more important than ever to practice physical distancing. 

Over the weeks ahead, stay home whenever you can and only go out for essential trips. When we do need to leave our homes, it’s important that we all wear a face covering that covers both our nose and mouth. This can be a scarf, a home-made mask, or even a repurposed old t-shirt. Watch my video on this here

Staying home really is one of the biggest ways we can help each other right now. It’s difficult to be away from family and friends, but it’s literally lifesavingly important that we all stay disciplined over the coming weeks. Abiding by the Mayor’s new restrictions, including a curfew and the closure of public sports facilities, will protect our hospital capacity by initiating as few new cases of COVID-19 as possible in this critical period. 

Physical distancing doesn’t have to mean a lack of social connection, though — reach out to family and friends by phone, or schedule a dinner via Zoom! And I hope amid the anxiety of this season, the strange change in pace has brought at least one unexpected joy to you. For me it has been the children tossing a ball and scrawling in chalk on the now-much-quieter street outside my house. Below you’ll find some information on two emergency economic relief initiatives at the city level that are launching applications today, one for renters and one for small businesses; I hope you’ll apply if they’re relevant to your circumstances. 

All the best, 

Kenzie 

Important City of Boston Initiatives  

  • The City of Boston has set up a $3 million emergency rent assistance fund specifically for those who can’t access federal CARES money or unemployment relief. Applications are now available here.
  • Mayor Walsh established the Small Business Relief Fund to assist Boston’s small businesses most directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This newly created fund, administered and managed by the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development (OED).
    • Application available here.
    • Anyone needing support to fill out the application should call 617-635-2111 (in English + 9 languages including Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cape Verdean Creole, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Somali, French, and Russian)
    • The How-To-Apply Guide with requirements and guidelines can be found here.

Upcoming Virtual Meetings

Charlesgate Dog Park Design Meeting

Tuesday, April 7th, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

https://zoom.us/j/232471638

Meeting ID: 232 471 638 

City Council Meeting 

Wednesday, April 9th, starting at 12PM

https://www.boston.gov/departments/city-council

April 1: Happy Census Day! Respond and Be Counted!

Dear friends,

Happy Census Day!  This morning, while waiting for the teakettle to boil, I dug through the pile of mail that has been building up on my hallway table as I’ve been preoccupied with our present emergency.  At the bottom I found the envelope that arrived from the Census Bureau several weeks ago. I sat down with the letter and my tea, opened my laptop, navigated to my2020census.gov, and filled out the information for our whole household (my cousin Brennan and myself) in about 5 minutes.

Not too grand a story!  And yet, so much depends on every household in our district taking those simple steps.  Boston needs us to respond to the 2020 Census so that our communities get their fair share of federal representation and funding for the resources we need.  Those resources have never been more important.

To date, only 40.3% of Massachusetts residents have filled out their Census, and in Boston the number is just 31.6%.  That is lagging behind the response rates at this point ten years ago – for understandable reasons, given how all our lives have been disrupted.

Will you join me in filling out your Census today?  Please do – and send me a reply to let me know everyone in your home is now counted!

Below I’ve included some further information about the Census; thank you for reading, and thank you also for all that you’re doing to practice physical distancing right now.  Be safe and be well.

All best wishes,

Kenzie

CENSUS INFORMATION

Why the Census is important:

  • The 2020 Census is a way to directly increase community power. It will impact our daily lives for the next 10 years including schools, hospitals and roads we need. Many of Boston’s communities are at risk of an undercount. We need a complete and accurate count because all of Boston deserves to be seen, heard, and invested in.
  • Much of the funding that comes from the Census count helps the most vulnerable among us. It provides, for instance, health care (Medicare and Medicaid), public education (grants for special education and Boston Public Schools), food and nutrition programs (SNAP and free school breakfast/lunch programs), affordable housing (Section 8 vouchers), and child care (Head Start) for low-income families.  
  • The 2020 Census will determine the number of Congressional representatives for each state.  We need to ensure that Massachusetts is accurately represented in Washington.

The Census is 100% confidential

  • Responses to the 2020 Census are safe, secure, and protected by federal law.
    Your answers can only be used to produce statistics and cannot be used against you by any government agency or court. The Census Bureau can’t share your personal information with DHS, law enforcement, or your landlord until 72 years have passed. It won’t affect any public benefits you receive.

Every person counts!

  • Whether you rent or you own your home, whether you were born here or you just got here, whether you are a senior citizen or a newborn baby, you count equally in our democracy and we need to make sure you and everyone in your household is counted in the 2020 Census.

How to fill out the Census:

  • The Census has never been more accessible. You can respond to the 2020 Census online (my2020census.gov), over the phone, or by mail in 13 different languages. 

It’s critical to the future of Boston that we have an accurate count.  Please take 5-10 minutes and fill out your Census today to ensure that our city can get the resources we need.

If you’d like to track the Census responses for Massachusetts and the nation, you can do so here.

To stay up to date about the Census and available district resources, please check out our website or call our office at 617-635-4225.

March 30 Newsletter: Website Launch

A Note from Kenzie

Dear friends,

Hi again! I miss seeing all of you around the city as we all stay home; it’s strange to be traveling the streets of our neighborhoods mainly in my mind’s eye right now, but please know that I’m thinking of you and your families! My office has launched a website where we have compiled resources from the City, State, neighborhood associations, and other sources. We will keep it updated, and if you have anything you’d like us to share on the website, please let us know.

Last week, I was proud to captain a quick pilot in Fenway of a new collaboration between local Boston business Katsiroubas Bros, the folks at Fresh Truck, and the Mayor’s Office of Food Access to figure out how to get free boxes of fresh produce out to our neighbors who need them right now! With amazing local volunteers from the FenwayCares mutual aid network and the quick-acting support of every community organization in the Fenway, we got 318 boxes safely out across the neighborhood — including to suddenly food-insecure families, every senior resident of St Cecilia House, and some folks in our local supportive housing and reentry programs. In the process, we learned a a lot that’s going to help us expand the effort citywide with money from the new Boston Resiliency Fund; read about the first round of expansion grants here. This is a hard season, but we’re in it together. I hugely appreciate the many residents and businesses of District 8 that have stepped up to donate to our emergency fund in support of food access, tech for our students, and help housing our homeless. You can give to the Boston Resiliency Fund here.

Yesterday, the Mayor announced a number of additional beds to house homeless individuals in the city during the crisis, including a Suffolk University dorm on the edge of Beacon Hill. Additional capacity will be announced over the coming days; please know that ever since this emergency began, a huge number of people have been working behind the scenes to make sure Boston cares for our most vulnerable citizens. I’m so grateful for all of our partners in that effort.

Meanwhile, we all need to keep doing our part to keep this virus from spreading — so please continue to keep a physical distance (even in our parks), wash your hands, and avoid all unnecessary trips.

As always, please reach out if there’s anything you need or if there’s a community member you know that could use some support from our office right now, even if it’s just a phone call to say hello. You can fill out this form or call us at 617-635-4225.

For further daily Coronavirus updates from the City, you can now text BOSCOVID to 99411. That text line is also multilingual, and those in search of resources in other languages can go here.

Thanks,

Kenzie

Remembering Lt. Ed Walsh and Firefighter Michael Kennedy

Thank you to the residents of 298 Beacon Street for finding a way to mark the 6-year anniversary of the fire that took the lives of Boston Fire Department fallen heroes Lt. Ed Walsh and Firefighter Michael Kennedy. We honor and miss them.

Other Announcements

Zoning Board of Appeal hearings have been cancelled:

  • April 7, 2020 ZBA Hearing
  • April 16, 2020 ZBA Subcommittee Hearing
  • April 28, 2020 ZBA Hearing 

Email ISDBoardofAppeal@boston.gov with any questions.