My kids were more fascinated with the homeless in Harvard Square than just about anything else we experienced this past year.
They were able to quiz one of the world’s top astrophysicists – a man who is leading the hunt to find other planets that could support life – but my kids talked more about a man we simply called “Spare Change.” Almost every day, the man stood in front of a small market just down from our apartment building.
“Spaaare change. Can you help me out?” he would sing while shaking a small can as people walked by.
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And almost every time we walked by him, my kids, especially my 12-year-old son Kyle, would urge me to give him some money.
“Why don’t you help him?” he asked.
I’ll tell you how I answered in an upcoming column, as well as how it made me feel that one of my first big series of news articles for The Sun News in the late 1990s was about the Myrtle Beach homeless population and that I would encounter the same issue every day during my time at Harvard University.
One other interesting tidbit. Harvard Square is a cool place, and made even more interesting by, yes, the homeless, as well as the street performers. Some performers or artists are homeless, using whatever talent they can muster to make begging more bearable, while other performers are not homeless and just want to please a crowd, practice their entertainment skills, make an extra buck or advertise their website.
I included two videos to illustrate the difference. One is of Justin Newton, who says why he sits on the sidewalk creating little trinkets after being homeless for a few years. The other is a snippet of a pair of young men who are not homeless but attracted a lot of attention in the square for playing classical music instruments.
I have not done a scientific survey, but I believe the homeless in Harvard Square may outnumber the non-homeless street performers.