How to Help Unhoused Families at the UUA Emergency Overnight Shelter

How to Help Unhoused Families at the UUA Emergency Overnight Shelter

The temporary space, which opened in early March, is expected to accommodate eighty people nightly when at full capacity.

Elaine McArdle
Rows of green cots in an open office space with white walls and gray carpet. The cots have bundles on them.

The Unitarian Universalist Association headquarters at 24 Farnsworth St. is temporarily sheltering unhoused families overnight on its sixth floor in partnership with local aid groups.

© 2024 Ted Resnikoff/UUA


Five Unitarian Universalist churches in Massachusetts—in Attleboro, Belmont, Beverly, Boston, and Malden—are serving as drop-off sites for donations of clothing and equipment for unhoused families, including migrant families, and pregnant people staying in temporary emergency shelters like the new temporary overnight shelter at Unitarian Universalist Association headquarters in South Boston.

The families’ immediate needs include:

  • disposable diapers in all sizes
  • baby wipes
  • new baby bottles
  • new or gently used baby gear and baby clothing (including warm items) in sizes 0 to 3
  • highchairs

The overnight shelter on the sixth floor of the UUA building at 24 Farnsworth St. opened in early March as a safe space for unhoused families, including migrant families, and pregnant people to spend the night because state-run emergency shelters were at capacity.

The shelter, offered by the UUA for free, is expected to house up to about eighty people each night and is managed by the  Black Refugee and Immigrant Community Coalition.

The shelter is being supported in part by the state’s SafetyNet Shelter Grant Program in partnership with the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, established to support community organizations and faith-based groups to set up short-term shelters for families and pregnant people with no other sheltering options.

"I’m so glad that our UUA is actively living our values in setting this model and this example for us in congregations," said Rev. Elizabeth Assenza, minister at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Beverly, which is serving as a drop-off site. "I’m excited to see how we can continue to support this popup shelter."

‘This Is Not Just a Boston-Area Crisis’

The SafetyNet program is funding nine other short-term sites across the region for unhoused families and pregnant people, which also need donations, including diapers, said Rev. Evin Carvill Ziemer, Developmental Lead for the UUA’s New England Region.

"This is drumming up a lot of interest and engaging a lot of people who previously weren’t, and we want to encourage that," added Sherri Lysy, Administration and Finance manager for the UUA’s New England Region.

In addition to supporting the Farnsworth shelter, UUA leaders want people "to be looking locally at their needs within their community. This is not just a Boston-area crisis," Lysy emphasized.

The lack of affordable housing in the region is a major contributor to the issue, said Carvill Ziemer.

The UUA urges everyone to respect the privacy, space, and humanity of the guests at the shelters. "All children, and all people, deserve a safe place to sleep," UUA leaders said in a statement.

"All children, and all people, deserve a safe place to sleep."

— Unitarian Universalist Association

Find a Donation Drop-Off Location to Help Unhoused Families in Massachusetts

Donations for the Farnsworth and other shelters are being accepted at these Massachusetts congregations:

Murray Unitarian Universalist Church, Attleboro

10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at 505 North Main St., Attleboro (site available through Thursday, March 28).

First Church in Belmont, Belmont

The address is 404 Concord Ave. Leave donations at the table set up near the office.

Drop-off times:

  • 8 a.m. to noon Sunday
  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday
  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday and Friday
First Parish Church, Beverly

8 a.m. to noon Mondays through Fridays at 225 Cabot St. Once onsite, donors should use the back door on Briscoe Street and ring both doorbells.

First Church Boston, Boston

9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, at 66 Marlborough St. Donors should ring the main church doorbell upon arrival.

First Parish, Malden

9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at 2 Elm St. If the door is locked, donors should reference the sign on the door with contact information. To arrange a different drop-off time to this site, donors should contact

Unitarian Universalist Headquarters, Boston

If an appointment is made ahead of time, items may also be dropped off at the UUA headquarters on Farnsworth Street in Boston. To make an appointment, contact Segree Bowen, UUA Hospitality Services manager, at

Other Ways to Help Unhoused Families in Massachusetts

If none of the drop-off sites is convenient and mailing in items would be more convenient, donors should contact  for instructions. Other drop-off sites around Boston will be posted by the UUA as information becomes available.

Financial donations are also welcome and can be sent to United Way of Massachusetts Bay, which is managing SafetyNet shelters in the Boston area.

These shelters have an  Amazon wish list, although financial donations are preferred over the Amazon list, said Carvill Ziemer.