In my most recent column, I went into more detail about homelessness in Harvard Square and how my kids reacted to it this year. For me, I view it as I always have: I help when I can, relying upon the still voice inside to guide me.
I am less concerned about being duped by someone on a street corner who doesn’t need the money he’s begging for than I am about not helping people I could and should. It’s also the way I think about social welfare programs.
I want fraud and waste to be reduced, but I don’t want that goal to take precedence over the need to lend a hand. If we spent as much time worrying about the fraud and financial deceit committed by the very rich as some of us do begrudging the poor, inequality wouldn’t be rising so fast.
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Here are a few responses from readers:
We spend most of our year in Indianapolis, but have a Condo in Pawleys Island and have been in this area part time since 1991. I don’t know if I have read your column before or not, but I thoroughly enjoyed your Homeless at Harvard column. You hit the nail on the head through the range of emotions and options regarding the “Homeless” and in sometimes pseudo-homeless. It was a very well done piece and I enjoyed it greatly.
I remember a number of years ago being on a business trip in Toronto and visiting with my ex-wife’s uncle who was a Catholic Priest. As we walked down the street, the Father, in his Roman Collar, became an obvious target for every homeless person and panhandler along our way. I was amazed that instead of giving any of them money, he offered his free instructions to the Salvation Army shelter where they could get a free meal, a hot shower, and bedding and shelter for the night. A very effective yet Christian way of dealing with the issue.
Issac - What about a food stamp recipient leaving IGA, Conway after buying ALL of the prime rib in the display case and leaving in a not too old BMW - black. What about a lady using four different EBT cards ( maxing them out) in Walmart - black. Why not write an article about this? Or the stoner in my neighborhood (Jamestown, Conway) that routinely sells his food stamps – white.
Since relocating a year ago May I have been reading and enjoying your articles in the Sun.
I'm especially fond of your recent ones because I was born in Cambridge. Lived their 25+ years (14 of them working at The Harvard Coop) and another 20 years in Watertown.
Today's article on the homeless brought memories flooding back of me, as a teenager riding the 72 bus from Huron Avenue to Harvard Square, with a family member staying with us while attending a graduate school class.
We would part ways as I continued on to Cambridge Rindge and Latin and he would head over to "The Yard".
Each day, a homeless man would catch his eye and then some form of money would be handed over, no words spoken.
I asked him one day after many of these days why he did this. The answer was simple but always remained in my head. "Because everybody is somebody".
Eventually, the class ended and he went back to teaching at Columbia and I continued with my life, but each day, when I could, the man would catch my eye and my hand would go to my pocket.
This memory had long ago faded. Thanks to you, you brought it and the message behind it back to me this weekend!
I hope you are enjoying your time there and that your health is on the upswing!