5-day fast a nod to plight of poor FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 15 Dec 1997 13:08:47 -0800 (PST)

=46WD "5-day fast a nod to plight of poor"

                       By Gloria Negri, Globe Staff, 12/11/97

In Boston's Old West Church, which once harbored runaway slaves, a longtime
advocate for the poor began a five-day fast yesterday to draw attention to
what she sees as the modern-day slavery of poverty, homelessness, and

Kip Tiernan, 71, blamed the plight of the poor on legislated ''fiscal
madness,'' her term for cuts in welfare and food-stamp programs, and an
uncaring public that she says, in a time of seeming prosperity, blames the
poor for being poor.

''Has anything changed in the last seven years?'' she asked at a press
conference in itiating her fast and referring to a similar one she observed
in 1990 to protest budget cuts in programs for the needy.

''Yes,'' she answered her own question. ''There are twice as many poor,
with thousands more on the edge. The so-called safety net has become a
funnel, through which thousands are being thrust.''

In spite of their own lobbying in the Legislature over the past year,
Tiernan said, advocates for the poor were unable to save programs that
would benefit their constituency.

Rosie's Place, a shelter in Boston for homeless women that Tiernan founded
in 1974, is ''bursting at the seams,'' said its executive director, Julie
Brandlen. ''Our food-pantry needs continue to double. During the last three
months, we distributed 750 bags of groceries to women and children.

''Last month, over 500 women asked for assistance in our drop-in advocacy
center. At this rate, by the year 2000, Rosie's Place will be distributing
12,000 bags of groceries to women who don't have enough money to feed their
children and themselves, and we will be providing advocacy services to over

Sue Marsh, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for the
Homeless, said the ''sweeping changes'' state and federal governments have
made over the past 1 1/2 years have seriously reduced the ability of poor
people to ''pay their rent, heat their homes, buy groceries, and fulfill
basic needs.

''Part of the new federal law adopted by Congress in August will, in three
years, limit food stamps to three months for childless adults between the
ages of 18 and 50. Approximately 6,500 individuals in Massachusetts will be
affected,'' Marsh said.

Catherine D'Amato, executive director of the Greater Boston Food Bank, said
that ''26 million Americans, half of them children, need the services of
food pantries. Hunger studies expect that to climb to 30 million by next
=46ebruary and to only get worse.''

Tiernan first dedicated her life to the urban poor more than 20 years ago,
launching Rosie's Place, which was the first shelter for homeless women in
the country, and the Greater Boston Food Bank in 1978.

In this fast, Tiernan will be joined by Fran Froehlich, a former Brooklyn
nun, with whom Tiernan started the Poor People's United Fund in 1980.
=46roehlich said a number of people have asked to join them in the fast.

Participants, she said, will fast from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the church and
through the night at home, sustaining themselves with a sugar, salt, and
liquid protein diet. From noon to 1 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. each day, there
will be public forums, readings, music, and reflection at the church, which
is in Government Center.

             This story ran on page B04 of the Boston Globe on 12/11/97.
                       =A9 Copyright 1997 Globe Newspaper Company.