[Hpn] Homeless can't always be thankful;Column;MetroWest Daily News;11/21/01
Morgan W. Brown
Wed, 21 Nov 2001 15:21:31 -0500
Could not resist sending along the below forwarded Rob Haneisen column.
Morgan W. Brown
Wednesday, November 21, 2001
MetroWest Daily News <http://www.metrowestdailynews.com>
Haneisen: Homeless can't always be thankful
By Rob Haneisen
Wednesday, November 21, 2001
The summer my family was homeless I remember fondly as one spent in various
campgrounds and basements of nearby relatives.
I was 6 years old, had two younger brothers and no home after the owner of
the farmhouse my parents rented in Groton decided to sell.
An odd and imaginative child, I tried scaring away prospective buyers by
threatening them with handfuls of garter snakes collected in a nearby dry
well proclaiming that the house was full of 'em.
Later attempts of filling my little red wagon with prehistoric-looking
praying mantises and patrolling the front yard also proved fruitless
although I'm sure it produced some disapproving if not shocked looks from
My biggest sorrow that summer was not the fact we were homeless but more the
fact that neither I, my collection of critters, nor my parents could do
anything to prevent it.
So we packed our stuff into a vacant Army building on Fort Devens and
checked into one campground after another for weeks of swimming, fishing and
roasting marshmallows. Exactly how many days in a row can one have macaroni
and cheese for dinner? I may have discovered the answer to that riddle that
summer but I didn't care.
While I can look back at my own time of homelessness as strangely joyful,
there are those in Framingham and MetroWest who will not have that luxury.
With Thanksgiving upon them, these families have only the basics for which
they can be thankful.
At the Red Roof Inn in Southborough and Motel 6 in Framingham, there are a
total of 39 families living in hotel rooms. They average three children
apiece and have the distinction of being shipped to MetroWest from Boston
where there are simply no more rooms at area inns.
The state Department of Transitional Assistance pays for the rooms and
brings the people here as a temporary solution to the growing homeless
But it is not so temporary anymore.
According to officials with SMOC (South Middlesex Opportunity Council), the
families are staying longer, sometimes months at a time. That's long enough
to enroll their children in local schools with the only prospect being that
they will soon be uprooted to temporary housing elsewhere.
And what kind of a community have these people been brought to?
One of my colleagues who lives in Framingham half-joked that this is a place
where you check your compassion at the town line.
Because of strife surrounding a downtown shelter for alcohol and drug
abusers, the homeless people in town must deal with unfair and negative
attitudes from locals, in addition to dealing with their own plight.
The expected opening of a methadone clinic downtown has also generated
opposition toward those needing help.
Some say Framingham is becoming the dumping ground for the state's social
ills, pointing out that some of the men and women in shelters and addicted
to heroin are not from Framingham.
But while the town struggles to enhance its business community and
revitalize downtown, critics don't realize that social services and business
development for a large community go hand in hand.
There are signs all around that compassion in greater quantities is needed:
the failing economy, job cuts, the still sky-high cost of housing.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Boston is one of the
cities expected to see a major rise in homelessness. All this comes thanks
to the faltering economy.
A moat mentality - creating a protective barrier around the town to keep out
the undesirables - isn't what is needed. Isn't that why isolationists like
Pat Buchanan can't get elected president?
Mark Curtis, one of the organizers of the annual Thanksgiving Day feast at
the Framingham Eagles Club, said he expects a bigger crowd this year. While
he's happy to serve 300 pounds of turkey and 125 pounds of ham, the need for
the event brings him no joy.
The families living in hotels, and the alcoholics living in shelters, are
thankful for a day and searching for hope the next.
I don't know how my parents made it through that summer without panicking.
Three young kids and no home, save the two big tents that leaked in the
rain. What were they thinking?
They found a duplex to rent in Ayer before school started and two years
later bought a house in Fitchburg. It happened thanks to good luck and an
optimistic faith that things turn out well in the end. We were lucky that we
had extended family to rely on in a pinch, especially one day when we had to
evacuate the campground because of a hurricane.
I cannot claim a family that is extraordinary as a result of the homeless
summer. We are ordinary in our capacity for bickering and are uncomfortable
with hugs. But we are also ordinary in our willingness to help one another
when called and worrisome about each other's future. The love is always
there if not always expressed.
People, like myself, who grew up with free and reduced school lunch cards in
old mill towns of central Massachusetts regard MetroWest with envy. It is
the land of big homes, fancy cars, political connections and storied
But from my perspective it is more often than not the land of opportunity
missed. Framingham's downtown, a logical collection point with trains and
major roadways intersecting, is very much the crossroads for the
unfortunate. These people are looking for an opportunity to hope. That
opportunity is the responsibility of people in this community, whether they
welcome that chance or not.
(Rob Haneisen is the central regional editor for the MetroWest Daily News.
He can be reached at 508-626-3882 or email@example.com)
**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
material is distributed without charge or profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**
-------End of forward-------
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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