‘Everyone deserves a home’: Annual Winter Walk uplifts stories of homelessness to fight for change


Approximately 3,000 people walked in the Winter Walk march on Sunday in Boston.

On the morning of Feb. 12, approximately 3,000 people gathered at Copley Square to participate in the seventh annual Winter Walk, an event sponsored by the non-profit organization of the same name, which seeks to raise awareness and funds to end homelessness. The walk spans two miles through the streets of Boston and around the plaza. 

“We come together every February for a huge walk outside during the coldest month of the year, and we’re walking together —  housed, homeless and everything in between — to say we care about this issue and we want to make a change,” said Ari Barbanell, the executive director of Winter Walk, which started in 2017 and has year-round programs that focus on breaking the stigma against homelessness through education and storytelling.

The event began with a short documentary featuring a few local formerly homeless individuals from Boston. Highlighted in the documentary, Delphia Bizzel and her husband were homeless for 27 years. She stayed at a shelter for most of that time, separated from her husband. 

“Everyone deserves a home,” Bizzell started off in the documentary.

Bizzel talked about the strict time regulations for her and her husband’s shelters. The day started at 5 a.m. when everyone was woken up. Then, women had to be inside at 3 p.m., and men had to be inside at 1 p.m. And once you’re in, you can’t go back out, she said.

“I’m thankful because I had a place to lay my head, and I could eat three meals a day. But it was so restrictive,” Bizzel said. 

Following the screening, BACHome Council Member Murielle Cadet illuminated the crowd with a speech about her personal experiences and struggles of being homeless for more than 13 years. 

“My story by far wasn’t easy and wasn’t my choice,” said Cadet, who also suffered from addiction and mental health issues.

Yet through those long 13 years, she never lost her spirit. Cadet has been sober since August 2020, and she participated in a housing program that ultimately enabled her to achieve her dream of permanent housing. 

 “Nobody ever expected for me to get to this point,” Cadet said.  “It’s about how hard you work to make the change. And once you do, it’s an amazing feeling. And I’ve still remained my authentic self. Nothing’s changed, but my sobriety, and that now I’m not in the streets.” 

With the help of this organization and many others, the number of homeless people in Boston, who are living on the streets or in shelters, dropped 2.4 % from 1,659 people in 2021 to 1,545 in 2022, according to a Boston Globe report

Overall, the walk not only brings together those who are homeless, but also advocates and residents that want to be part of the solution. For Tori Hay Lindahl, who attended the Winter Walk for the first time, the event allowed her to take action against a problem she encounters every day. 

“I live here in Boston, been here for 15 years. I walk by [homeless people] on my way to work, and I’m always thinking about what can I do to be supporting these people in a way that is actually impactful,” said Lindahl, who is volunteering from the Junior League of Boston. 

The Winter Walk organization is hosting another walk in two weeks in New York City. But these walks are only one step to ending homelessness. 

“When you just recognize a person’s humanity,” Barbanell said, “it’s truly the gateway to change this issue.”