Lawrence Council Approves Bus Station Use for Homeless Dinners

Photo: Jonathan Stevens

By: Tom Duggan – Nov. 2023

Last month, the Lawrence City Council voted 8-1 in favor of allowing weekly homeless dinners to continue at the Buckley Garage on Common Street.

The dinners are sponsored by a local non-profit called The Movement Family (or TMF) every Wednesday evening at 9pm. The dinners took place for two years before the previous mayor, Dan Rivera, put a stop to it saying that TMF was using a city-owned property, and that they were using the property without a legal permit to do so.

TMF appealed the mayor’s ruling by applying for a permit and appearing before the City Council but was rejected by a vote of 5-4.

When Mayor DePena took office two years ago, he made good on his campaign promise to allow TMF to return to the Buckley Garage as long as they applied for a permit, and got approval of the council, which they did. The two-year permit was set to expire in April of 2024.

Last month, TMF founder Michael Gorman filled Lawrence City Council Chambers with supporters and who spoke to advocate for TMF to have their permit to be renewed.
State Representative Francisco Paulino took time from his duties in Boston to speak before the council, saying that TMF’s efforts to feed and clothe the homeless is making a significant difference in the community.

He pointed out that not only do they provide a meal for the homeless once a week, but partner up with outside organizations like Tewksbury Detox to get them clean and put them in transitional housing. Paulino also talked about how he grew up poor and had no food when he was younger, adding that he wished that he had TMF back then when he would sometimes go days without eating.

Lawrence City Councilor Maria De La Cruz, (who was the decided vote against TMF when Rivera was mayor), spoke at public participation thanking TMF for the work they do in the community, singled out Valley Patriot publisher Tom Duggan, and announced that she would be voting to support TMF’s permit extensions.

When it was all over, the council voted 8-1 in favor of renewing the permit for TMF until April of 2026.

“This was a huge win for us,” TMF founder Michael Gorman told The Valley Patriot to thunderous applause in the City Hall lobby after the vote.

“First, we need to thank The Valley Patriot and all their readers and supporters of Facebook who made calls and wrote letters, and make donations to TMF every single week. The Valley Patriot is the reason we are here at city hall tonight and this win could not have happened without Tom and his readers.”

“I also want to thank the Lawrence firefighters for making calls and writing letters, as well as Mayor DePena, Octavian Spanner, the city councilors, and everyone who stood by us.”

“It is so crucial to show these individuals on the streets who might be addicted, or in a dark place, that there is somewhere to go not just for a meal but for help, and services, and love,” Gorman concluded. “Lawrence officials sent a very powerful message that the city cares about everyone, not just those who make campaign contributions – and there’s something wonderful about that.” ◊