Kenmore Square has a couple hotels which I imagine aren’t cheap, a glimpse of one of the more expensive places to watch a baseball game, students attending a high priced university, a BMW billboard, and homeless people.
These days when I hear “Kenmore Square,” that last item is the one that comes to mind. I think of Melvin, and I think of the guy outside of Dunkin’ Donuts. If you’ve ever walked past CityCo in Kenmore Square, you probably have seen Melvin in the doorway next to it. That’s the name of the man with the beard, according to his cardboard sign. The guy outside of Dunkin’ Donuts does not have a sign, but he is more vocal. They are not Boston’s only homeless citizens, just the ones I’m most familiar with. They are increasingly on my mind when I stare out the window and watch the snow fall on a cold winter’s night.
Where do the homeless spend these nights? I only see the guy outside of Dunkin’ Donuts in the morning – is he someplace warm during other hours? Is there room in the shelters and churches of Boston for all of them, or are some left out in the cold?
If you ask people if they want to help the homeless, I like to think that most would say yes. But when it comes to helping homeless people, as individuals, you’d probably see a bit more hesitation. People will donate to the Salvation Army or the United Way, or the homeless shelters where many must sleep at night – but will they donate to Melvin or the Dunkin’ Donuts guy? Just this morning I pretended that the Dunkin’ Donuts guy didn’t exist. I gave him, a fellow human being, all the acknowledgement that I would normally give a tree.
I do not know what combination of bad circumstances, luck, and events resulted in their current position. I can only hope that I won’t find out for myself one day. But I don’t think it matters why they are there. If you get shot, do the doctors ask why before trying to stop the bleeding? We tell ourselves “Oh, there’s a reason that’s him and not me,” to put our minds at ease. I find that hard to believe; but even if it were true, is a life on the street really a just outcome? Are we okay with that cold floor for the bottom of our society?
I do not know what could be done to house all of the less fortunate among us. There is a lot that I do not know. But I do know this: when I head back to my high priced dorm at my high priced university, I pray I won’t see Melvin.