A critical lack of services for women in need resulted in the beginning of Women’s Lunch Place on November 15, 1982.
Women’s Lunch Place was started in November 1982 by friends Eileen Reilly and Jane Alexander, who saw there was a need among women who were homeless for a safe place to go during the day. Reilly and Alexander met as volunteers at Pine Street Inn, an overnight shelter for men, and noticed that women dressed as men in order to get a meal and bed. Being dressed as men put these women at risk from males at the shelter and on the streets. Reilly and Alexander decided to do something to change this and after searching for a place, they were welcomed by members of the Church of the Covenant in Boston’s Back Bay. Twelve women were served a hot lunch prepared by Reilly, Alexander and other volunteers in the basement of the church.
From the beginning, Reilly and Alexander insisted that guests were served lunch at their tables, and not made to stand in line. The use of tablecloths, china plates, and silverware on tables adorned with fresh flowers were the practice then and remains so today. Our mission still is to foster respect and dignity for every woman with no questions asked. They also started the practice, which continues today, of encouraging volunteers to join guests for lunch to instill community.
In 1985, we started serving breakfast and increased the days of operation. In 1995, advocacy services were offered to guests. In 2011, a major renovation resulted in a more beautiful, welcoming space to meet the growing demand for services. Assistance with employment and housing are now available, and dozens of self-help and creative classes are offered throughout the week.
Today, the dining room is open from 7:00am-2:00pm Monday through Saturday. Hot coffee, tea, and toast are offered throughout the day, with a nutritious breakfast served from 8am until 10am; lunch is served restaurant-style at noon, and counter service is available from 12:30-2:00pm. Guests may access essential services and basic needs such as showers and laundry facilities, as well as a nap room. Medical care is provided by Healthcare Without Walls and advocates assist guests with issues related to domestic violence, housing, finances, legal matters, education, employment, substance use, and access to benefits. A resource center and library is available with access to computers and phones, the Internet, and office supplies.
Staying true to the vision of its founders, Women’s Lunch Place treats vulnerable women with dignity, and empowers them to pursue their goals.