Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My son has a laptop!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks to you all but my son is the proud owner of a new laptop.

The manager at the local Staples store came through bigtime for me as he was able to get me the following for $599 ( plus tax )

Dell® XPS M1330 Notebook PC
As one of the thinnest and lightest notebooks in its class, the XPS M1330 is a truly portable notebook.
Intel® Core 2 Duo T5450 (1.66GHz) processor
2GB installed memory
120GB Hard drive
SuperMulti DVD drive
13.3" WXGA TrueLife™ Wide Display
Built-in Dell Wireless Bluetooth capability
2.0 Megapixel Integrated Webcam
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium
1 year warranty

Staples has been selling it for close to $1100 but the store had a special Christmas Eve sale.

I had enough from the donations and saving what I could to get him a wireless mouse as well and his Mom is going to get the bag for him.

He is beyond thrilled and I am so grateful to all.

Meanwhile in the real world Christmas Night was a little bleak at the shelter. Some volunteers promised to provide Christmas dinner and they never showed letting the poor students who did not go home to scramble to feed everyone. It wasn't the big dinner they had planned but there was nothing they could do.

I will be at the shelter until Saturday morning and then have to see what other options are out there. All the agencies are shut down this week and nothing is moving.

Over in Boston they had a big meal at Pine Street Inn
Homeless in Boston served a Christmas meal, with a side of compassion

Yes the homeless are well fed on Christmas and Thanksgiving but sadly there are 363 days in a year.

I will continue to blog and let you know how the battle is going.

Again thanks for all the support......

Now that the laptop dream has been accomplished the donation button will still be there if anybody feels like getting me a cup of coffee I'm just trying to save whatever I can so I can get off the streets.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

12/23: Christmas Eve Eve

Went computer shopping today and was given a nice heads up by the manager at Staples in Harvard Sq.

He told me to come in tomorrow after Noon as there will be some 'last minute' sales so I might be able to get a better laptop for my son than I thought possible.

I could not have done this without the help of the readers of this blog.

I will be spending Christmas Eve evening at my son's home and staying over. At least for Christmas Eve we are a family.

I will try and post more tomorrow.

Friday, December 21, 2007

12/21 The longest night of the year

At 1:08 Saturday morning the winter solstice will arrive marking the longest night of the year. I think about the people outside even more today.

The City of Boston *thinks* there are less people living on the streets this year.

City experts predict drop in homeless numbers

I think they miss a lot of people who are not downtown. I know of 20-30 persons who have a mini tent city near the Public Theater on Soldiers Field Road in Allston ( or is that Brighton? ). In any event every shelter is above capacity, it it shows no sign of slowing down. I know that long time street people have never seen so many people sleeping around Harvard Square.

I am feeling better today and looking at the best available laptop option for my son. I thank the person who sent the links last night in a comment that was very helpful. I plan now to pick it up Monday morning when I will know how much is available to spend. I can put in a little bit but the reality is my government check does not go very far over 31 days. So much of the day is spent killing time indoors where it is warm and you have to buy a coffee here and there so they leave you alone. $2 at a time adds up.

The Harvard Sq shelter is now using volunteers from the church upstairs to keep in running as most students have left for the holidays. I am just thankful I am there through Christmas and don't have to worry about a bed until a week from Saturday. Maybe by then I will have good news but the reality is most service agencies will be closed next week as everybody has left for the holidays.

Again thank you for all your help.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

12/20: Looks like it will be a 'white christmas'

The way things are going it maybe a 'white' Patriot's Day. Enough already.

Mt Auburn gave me a prescription for a cough suppressant which seems to have helped some. More important the chest x-ray didn't show anything major.

2 more donated computers arrived last night at the shelter....I am thrilled I played a small part in that. The students may need some help getting them connected to the net. They have a DSL line from Verizon and a wireless router but my understanding is Macs can be tricky to set up.

The fund for my son's laptop is close......

Here is a recap of the donations
$60 1 CASH $60
all others by PayPal
$50 3 $150
$30 2 $60
$25 3 $75
$20 7 $140
$15 1 $15
$10 5 $50
$ 5 3 $15
$ 2 1 $2

PayPal fees $21.36

$ 545.64 Total

PayPal charges a small fee on all transactions done by credit card for example $20.00 becomes $19.12, $50 becomes $48.25. Echecks thay do not charge a fee.

So the dream is very close now. I hope to get it on Sunday or Monday. The PayPal account is on a debit card that they sent me so it would be like paying by credit card.

The model that I first saw 2 weeks ago at Staples is this one

The website has it listed at 699 but the store still has it at 599

In any event should the fund get a little higher I will get a little nice. I know Acer is the old Gateway but I also see an HP in reach.

I have seen prices a little lower on the net but the reason I want to use Staples is simply if there is a problem it will not be a hassle for my son;s mom to get it fixed as there is a Staples near her home. In any event I doubt Staples would sell anything that was not proven.

I can not even begin to express my gratitude to strangers that have helped. I wish you all the best holiday season ever and a much better 2008

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

6 days before Christmas

First just want to thank the person who donated an older Mac G4 desktop to the shelter. The students hope to get it connected to the router in the next couple of days. Still it is a huge help.

Today I have to go back to Mt Auburn Hospital again as I am not shaking a very bad cough. Two mornings in a row now I have awoken with a hacking away and it takes about 2 hours for it to subside. Hopefully nothing major.

Today St Paul's Catholic Church is hosting a big meal at noontime for the community which people are looking forward to.

The sidewalks that I complained about on Monday are still bad, those private Harvard clubs should be ashamed of themselves.

The laptop goal is very close to becoming a reality and hopefully I will be able to get it by the weekend....I am so grateful for the support shown so far.

I will try and post later and give an update on what the hospital tells me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

update 12/17 sidewalks and ice

One week to go before Christmas Eve and Boston feels like the North Pole.

A followup on my Saturday post. Had a good day yesterday with my son at the Pats game as guests of one of his classmates dad. While the weather was miserable his seats were in the club area which has an area that allows you to watch without getting soaked and frozen. My son had a great time and of is really looking forward to Christmas. I really hope there will be a new laptop under the tree for him. Thanks to many of you we are very close.

Today is just is cold and windy and the sidewalks are a mess around Harvard Sq. A little rant here. Somebody is going to get badly hurt on the sidewalks that the Harvard private clubs Fox and Lampoon are in control of. It is very bad on the Mt Auburn side of the Fox and the students who run that club are oblivious to that. Look guys I know doing it yourself is something beneath your station in life but take some cash out of the beer keg fund and hire a couple of homeless guys to do it. But why would they care as we just the "common folk."

If you are wondering what building the Fox Club is take a look

View Larger Map

Google Street View is a little scary isn't it.

Other than that not much to report. The woman at The Coop still refuses to come in and I saw her this morning at Au Bon Pain and she has a terrible cough but there is nothing anybody can do as that is the way she wants it. I can't wait for the shelter to open at 7 PM to get out of this wind.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

calm before the next storm

I just want to thank people in the community for all the support they have shown to me the past 2 weeks.

Today a church in Central Square was passing out winter coats to all that need them. Looks as though Channel 4 donated some as there were many that had the CBS4 logo on them that the station used until they became WBZ again. This morning I was able to get another 14 day bed at Harvard Sq Shelter which keeps me out of harms way past Christmas. I am thankful as the weather outlook is not good. I am still waiting on a few other long term solutions. That maybe the hardest part of this lifestyle...wait, wait and wait.

The dad of a classmate of my son invited him (and me) to join them in Foxboro tomorrow for the Pats game. (free so I will meet them at Alewife and then go to South Station to catch the train to the stadium. My son is so excited as he has never been to a Pats game and has only been to Foxboro for his high school's playoff game. Must admit I am a little excited as well as I haven't seen a Pats game in the new stadium. My bronchitis is better but I was a little concerned about the weather but I spoke to the person and he said not to worry as the tickets are on the club level where it is protected. He works for a major sponsor of team. It will be a good day of bonding with my son.

Again I would like to remind people that if you have an old desktop computer lying around the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter would be thrilled to give it a new home. The shelter has 3 old computers running Windows 2000 but 2 of them have died completely and the only working machine is not long for the world. While Harvard students run the shelter they get no direct support from the university. I am sure Harvard throws away machines daily but the students have tried to get something with no luck.

Again thank you. My dream of getting a laptop for my son for Christmas looks like it will happen.

Friday, December 14, 2007

let it snow...NOT

Because of the snowstorm yesterday I decided to be "safe" I would use the Boston system as there was no way I wanted to be without shelter Thursday night.

I should have slept at Hotel Bank of America.......

I got to the intake early in the afternoon and it was a complete madhouse. Even the most hardened streetperson knew to come in last night. I was finally processed and given a ticket and told to wait for the next bus....and then the fun began.

Standing outside as the snow came down waiting and waiting for a bus to arrive. Finally one appears after 90 minutes one arrives and the driver does not want to go back out again. Finally he was ordered to do so and 70-80 people crammed into a bus that seats maybe 40. I was not lucky enough to get seat and frankly the bus reeked.

The shelter we were assigned to is in the middle of Boston Harbor and you have to go to Quincy to get to the bridge. What should have been a 30-45 minute trip lasted almost 5 hours. I have never seen gridlock like this in Boston since the 78 blizzard.

I'm still not feeling that great and standing in the snow for 90 minutes isn't going to be good for me and by the time we got to Long Island I was starved and my legs were hurting after standing all that time.

The shelter itself was pure bedlam as many staffers could not get there. I think I got about an hour of sleep at most.

Tonight I will try for a late bed at Harvard and if that doesn't pan out I can stay with my friend as it is a weekend. Most important come tomorrow I can re-apply for a 14 day bed that would get me through Christmas.

Please don't think I am whining but frankly I am worn out.

There was another contribution yesterday so the goal is getting closer. Thank you again.

Hopefully I will have more time tomorrow to email those that have been so kind.

More tomorrow

as of yesterday Blogger has made it easier to make comments

After just two short weeks of testing on Blogger in draft, OpenID commenting is now available for all Blogger blogs. This means that your friends and readers can leave authenticated comments on your blog using their blog URLs from OpenID-enabled services such as, LiveJournal, and AOL Journals, or with their AOL/AIM accounts.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

update 12/13

I haven't had the chance to post the past couple of days.

Tuesday morning I could not stop coughing so I went to Mt Auburn Hospital and they wound up keeping me for 2 nights. They took a chest x-ray and found some bronchitis and they decided to give me some IV for 36 hours....lovely.

I'm feeling better now.

I am thrilled that the goal of a laptop for my son for Christmas is in reach thanks to the generosity of people reading the blog. It humbles me.

Tonight I have to bite the bullet and try for a bed in a Boston shelter. I can't afford to wait for a one night bed at Harvard as you can not call for one until 9:30 and from all accounts the weather tonight will be nasty.

I made all my calls for the places I am waiting for but still no luck.

More later.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Monday was a long day

After staying with a friend over the weekend I am back at the Harvard Square shelter for a one night bed. Just looking forward to a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches and hopefully a good night of sleep. I am really tired and now I fear I caught a cold.

Days like Monday are tough when you are outside most of the day. It was just cold and raw and the day just dragged on. I kill time having coffee in Au Bon Pain or Starbucks on Church St or the Harvard Coop cafe reading. Luckily somebody always throws the NY Times away in the coffee shops so that kills time.

Still checking every morning for a long term bed...just seems like nothing is moving in the system.
I will be honest it does wear me down.

While waiting to call at 9:30 I met another person bouncing around. I got in and he didn't. He won't go to Boston and sleep and what he winds up doing boggles the mind.
He takes the subway to South Station and buys a ticket to Foxwoods for $26 ( he panhandles and sells Spare Change the homeless newspaper). Now for that $26 he can sleep 2 hours to Connecticut and then the casino gives him $25 back in coupons for 2 "free" bets and the 'all you can eat buffet'. Then later in the morning he comes back to Boston and the vicious circle starts again. It sounds nuts but that is what people do to survive.

Anyhow I can not wait until Saturday morning when I can re-apply for a 2 week bed here at Harvard. Again for those who have offered support thank you from the bottom of my heart.

More tomorrow

Sunday, December 9, 2007

So how many homeless are there?

First of all thanks to the generosity of readers to the blog we are halfway to the goal of getting my son a laptop for Christmas. Thank you so much.

So just how many people are homeless in the Boston area? I don't think anybody really knows for sure. Both Boston and Cambridge conduct a census every year and the numbers they announce are laughable.

For example last year this article appeared in the Globe

Police aim to keep criminals out of shelters

Mayor also plans new initiative on the homeless

The annual homeless census has been completed and shows an increase from last year's count of 261, said Jim Greene , director of the city's Emergency Shelter Commission.

261 in the City of Boston????? Are they nuts??????

The article also gives one of the reasons some people would rather sleep outside.
Shelter employees have said some homeless people, after cashing Social Security or unemployment checks, were robbed by others staying in the shelter.

Cambridge also does a census and while the numbers seem low they certainly are more accurate than Boston.

Census finds 22 more homeless people in Cambridge than last year

There are 455 homeless people in Cambridge, 22 more than in 2006, according to the census, conducted in January. Nearly 12 percent of those individuals were not in any sort of shelter.

Although this year’s increase may reflect more temperate weather—there was a snowstorm during last year’s survey—it might also demonstrate that homelessness is increasing, or that more people have relocated to Cambridge because of a lack of services in other areas, according to Meghan Goughan, director of the Cambridge and Somerville Program for Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation’s First Step Street Outreach Program

Before I got sick I traveled a bit and I don't think the problem is as bad as cities like San Francisco and Seattle where the homeless seem to be everywhere but it still is a problem here in the Boston area. Boston and Cambridge also attract homeless people from other cities. Brookline has no homeless services to speak of yet you can't tell me they have no homeless people.

The City of Cambridge has a handbook for being homeless in Cambridge and details all the services available. I think many readers will be astonished at what is available.

Resource Guide for Persons Homeless in Cambridge (PDF)

Boston has many options and here are some links.

Pine Street Inn

Friends of Boston's Homeless

Boston Rescue Mission

St. Francis House

Shattuck Shelter

Rosie's Place

The City of Boston runs 2 large shelters which frankly are scary.

Woods Mullen Shelter
Woods Mullen Shelter is an emergency shelter operated by Boston Public Health Commission Homeless Services Bureau. Woods Mullen Shelter is located at the corner of Melina Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue near the Boston Medical Center. Woods Mullen Shelter provides food, emergency clothing, health care and case management services for anyone who is in need. We are open 24 hours. We have190 beds available for adults 18 and over (124 beds for men and 66 for women). Tickets are given out on a first come first serve basis beginning at 3:30 pm.
The other one is located in the MIDDLE of Boston Harbor
Long Island Shelter
There are 386 beds available for adults 18 and over (333 for men and 53 for women). Transportation is provided from our intake site at 784 Rear MassachusettsAvenue (Woods Mullen Shelter) from 3:00pm to 7:00pm daily. MBTA buses transport guests from Long Island Shelter back to Boston every morning.,Breakfast,lunch and dinner meals are served to guest in our beautiful diningroom overlooking the City of Boston Skyline.

In Cambridge there are 2 long term shelters that I am waiting for something to open up

First Church Shelter

Shelter, Inc.

In Somerville
Somerville Homeless Coalition

In Quincy and Brockton

Father Bills & MainSpring

In Waltham

Bristol Lodge

Statewide list of shelters

My hope is that by reading this and checking out the links I can make people aware at just how bad things are out there. Based on my observations I would say half the homeless will be that way for the rest of their lives. They have given up. That will not happen to me.

Some scam the system. One trick I was told about is to show up at an emergency room and say you want to 'kill yourself' and the state will hold a person for a week or more at $2-3,000 a day of taxpayer money. People do this just to get 3 meals and a cot and makes it harder for people who really need psychiatric care to get a bed.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Shelter stories - December 8th

First of all I am humbled by the generous support being shown to my family from strangers on the net. I will be in contact by email to those who have offered support. I can not thank you enough.

As I posted yesterday my 14 day bed at the Harvard Square shelter expired yesterday and I must wait 7 days to re-apply. I can call at 9:30 PM to see if they have a one night bed. For the next 2 nights I can sleep on a friends couch if need be. He lives in a Cambridge Housing building on Mt Auburn St that is owned by Harvard. He is not allowed to have somebody overnight on a regular basis but a day here and there they do not mind. This helps as many of the other shelters do not do intake on weekends so options become even more limited. At least I am secure until Monday morning.

I just want to tell you about 2 people I have met at the shelter.

A young woman with a 12 month old son finally got a motel room from the state yesterday. She had been living at the shelter and her baby was being cared for by the state. The woman had been in grad school at Harvard but things just fell apart when she got pregnant. Hopefully now things will start getting better for her.

Over the summer and fall I became friends with a man who has been living on the streets a long time. You can find him most days at Au Bon Pain at Harvard especially after 6 PM where he sits with his radio and listens to sports. The years on the streets have taken a toll on him and he is now 62. He moved to Boston in the early 60's from Maine and lived in a room in Davis Sq until 1988 when the rooming house owner cashed in on the real estate boom the subway brought to Somerville. He has lived on the streets ever since. This man has survived by collecting cans and that is hard work as it may take 8 or more hours to collect enough cans to make $20-40 a day. Each can is only a nickle so just do the math. However he now has trouble walking and can not can anymore and now has been forced to 'stem' in the square with a paper cup. He is not a daily drinker and in fact I have only seen him drink once in the months that I have known him. The truth is he is very sick and he needs to be seen by a doctor now.

He lost his ID years ago and he needs his birth certificate so he can get a state ID and social security card. He thought he needed to go to Maine for it but I found out today that we can order it online for $15.

We found out he can use the shelter address for mail so hopefully we can get this done. He is a good man, just a stubborn 'Maniac'.

Still he is a prime example on how the housing market in Cambridge/Somerville has changed the past 20 years. There used to be numerous rooming houses in the Dana Hill, Central Square and Davis areas but property values skyrocketed. 20 years ago the area of Mass Avenue between Harvard and Central was not upscale. There were cab companies, gas stations, Mom and Pop stores all along the avenue. Rooming houses were on Dana St, Clinton St and Magazine where people could simply rent a room. Those days are gone. Another factor was rent-control being abolished in the 1990's. The rent control zealots wanted nothing to change but the Cambridge rent control board was still setting rates based on 1969 20 years later. It wasn't fair to the property owners but the zealots refused to find middle ground like they did in Manhattan where people who were in a rent control building could stay but if they moved the landlord could then charge market rate. The elimination of rent control in Cambridge, Boston and Brookline have had a devastating toll on people living from paycheck to paycheck. In Cambridge the problem is compounded by so many units now owned by Harvard and only made available to Harvard affiliates. Harvard does own 3 buildings that they let the city use for elderly and disabled persons but it is just a drop in the bucket.

I don't pretend to have an answer to the problem but something has to be done as things are only getting worse.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The kindness of strangers

I had coffee this afternoon with 'pinetreeblossom' and we had a nice chat. I was blown away by her kindness and I am deeply grateful.

I will try this weekend to send email to those who have helped out. My computer access today is very limited as the shelter is down to one computer that works. They have 3 older Dell desktops that Harvard threw in the trash but 2 of them will not even boot up now.

If anybody reading this has an old desktop collecting dust in a closet I am sure the students who run the shelter would be thrilled to give it a new home.

They can be reached at

Phone: 617-547-2841

Street Address:

66 Winthrop St.
Cambridge, MA
Write to learn more about the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter Corporation

Tonight is my last night here as my 14 day bed expires in the morning and then I have to wait a week to reapply. I am not looking forward to the next few days but it is what it is.

Thanks for reading..more tomorrow

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A thanks to some wonderful Harvard students

Since Thanksgiving weekend I have been a "guest" at the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter.

Every winter since 1983, the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter, staffed and directed by students at Harvard University, has provided food,housing, and a friendly, supportive environment for two dozen men and women each night during the five coldest months of the year.

I can not begin to tell you how wonderful these students are in trying to help people in need. Somehow they are able to juggle the workload of attending Harvard, maintain a social life and still have time to staff the shelter. It is clean, comfortable and they provide good food, warm showers, telephones, laundry and computer access. The students do this on their own through a student organization called the Phillips Brooks House. It is located in the basement of the University Lutheran Church located at 66 Winthrop St.

One of the students gave some blogging tips and showed me how to have ads on the blog from Google and Amazon that might bring in some income. For example the Red Sox ad on the right would mean that if anybody bought some Red Sox World Series souvenirs from Amazon a small percentage of the sale would come back to me. That actually applies to anything bought on Amazon as long as you enter the site from this blog. Plus I would be able to buy the the laptop from Amazon and get back a little rebate. Believe me every saved nickle helps.

this is how the shelter works

Staying at the Shelter:
Shelter Season: the shelter operates from the evening of Nov. 15th to the morning of April 15th

Hours: The shelter is open from 7PM to 8AM, except on Saturday mornings when it is open until 9AM

To reserve a bed:

2 week beds: Call in the morning at 7:30AM (shelter clocks are synchronized with national time, to check correct time call 617-NERVOUS) to reserve a bed. Beds are given out in the order of calls and are not guaranteed to be available. The shelter does not give away more than one bed per phone call.

Emergency one night bed:

What it is: When a guest with a reserved 2 week bed is not able to make it to the shelter that night, their bed is open for others to use as an emergency one night bed

How to reserve it: Call in at 9:30PM to see if any one-night beds are open. Beds are given out in the order of calls and are not guaranteed to be available.

If no beds are available, our staff will work to find available sleeping accommodations at other area shelters. T-tokens are available for referrals to other shelters only, and there is a 3 tokens per week limit per guest.

Guests with reserved beds must arrive at the shelter by 9:00PM unless they have informed shelter staff otherwise or risk loosing their bed. Guests with work-related reasons may come in later than 11PM upon verification of work.

HSHS is a dry shelter that provides a drug-free, alcohol-free, and smoke-free environment. Referrals to wet shelters will be made if necessary.

In my case the bed I had for 14 days will expire on Saturday morning and then I have to wait seven days to reapply for another 14 day bed. So for a week I have to scramble for a place to go. The Salvation Army in Central Sq is an option for 4 nights (then 4 out) but I don't really qualify for their long term program as I am not an alcoholic or drug abuser. I can also stay with a friend one night a week and also try for a bed in Harvard Sq at 9:30 PM. Because I am saving every nickle for Christmas that I can I will not spend money for the hostel in Boston.

The 'wet' shelters in Boston are so bad I would rather spend the night in the 'Hotel Citizens Bank'. Plus since there are no lockers there you may well wake up with your belongings missing. (somebody stole my sneakers one night at the Boston Rescue Mission on Kingston St downtown). Walking into South Station at 6 AM in socks is not a good way to start the day.

Still no luck on the long term beds in Waltham, Cambridge and Somerville. The reality is nobody with a bed is giving it up when it is 15 degrees out at 3 AM.

Again thanks for reading and for those who have offered support I am grateful beyond words.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Too much time with nowhere to go

First I want to thank the people who have commented so far and for those you have offered a little help.

For me the hardest part of being on the streets is trying to pass the time during the day when the shelter is closed. Where I am staying now closes at 8 AM and reopens at 7. On a day like today wher the weather is good it isn't a problem but this being winter you never know.

Today for example I killed an hour at Starbucks having a cup of coffee and reading the Globe. Now I am using a public computer at Harvard to check e-mail and post to the blog, and later will go to the Cambridge Library where I can sign up for another hour on the net.

Au Bon Pain in Harvard Sq is a favorite gathering spot for people on the streets. The management there is kind to the homeless and does let people stay there to keep warm during the day. The only time they get upset is if somebody buys a cheaper coffee at 7-11 and thn goes to Au Bon Pain to drink it and frankly that is kind of rude. They also look the other way when people use the bathroom to clean up.

One big problem is that many shelters do not let clients store belongings during the day so people are forced to lug their bags around all day. It gets compounded that in this post 9/11 world storage lockers simply don't exist. I use the lockers at a hostel on Hemingway Street where I sometimes stay a night or two during the month when no other shelter option is available. The Boston hostels are not cheap....sharing a room with 3 other people can run over $40 at the one on Hemingway Street and the other one in Everett while cheaper is a hike on the T. Still it beats freezing and it allows you to do a laundry and shower up.

Some of the guys spend there day "canning". For those who think the homeless are lazy they should see these people go through trash cans looking for bottles or cans. Some make up to $40 a day doing it ( which at 5 cents a bottle means a lot of work )

Other days are spent in my case going to medical appointments at Newton Wellsley or filling out forms for housing.
The government bureaucracy involved with this is staggering. You would think that somebody who has been approved by the federal government for disability would be able to get Section 8 approval right away but it doesn't work that way.

Bottom line is I can see how the system can wear somebody down and they can get trapped into a vicious circle. I will not let that happen to me.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I never thought this could happen to me

For years I used to wonder about the homeless people you see around town. How could people wind up sleeping in a doorway. I used to dismiss them as perhaps lazy, alcoholic or having severe mental problems. I would give spare change when I could and then forget about them. There is one woman who has slept at the Harvard Coop for 20 years and then stands in front of the store all day. Sad really. Yet last summer I wound up sleeping next to her. How on earth did this happen??????

I am 57 and have lived in the Boston area most of my life. I have a BS from a well known Boston college and until 3 years ago worked hard in my chosen field. I was married, had a wonderful son, a condo in a nice suburb and had no real complaints in life. My marriage however suffered from working nights which in my line of work was the norm. We never divorced and are still close friends and good parents to my son who will be 16 next month.

The company I worked for was taken over by another outlet and we were all let go 3 years ago. It isn't easy trying to start over at 54 but I kept plugging away. Then I got sick.......

The last 3 years have been a nightmare as I have been inpatient more times than I can count. I keep getting infections that when they occur I have to be on IV treatments for 10 days. I just got out of Norwood Hospital last week after spending 2 weeks there. Because of this I can no longer work and have to be on Social Security Disabilty. The only good thing about that is that I am now on Medicare and my medical bills are covered and prescriptions are a small co-pay. Still the government does not give you very much. In my case it is under $900 a month and $73 in food stamps. The harsh reality is it is next to impossible to find even a room in the Boston area for that plus I am paying child support. I was living with a realtive in Newton until last May but she passed away and suddenly I had no place to go.

Now you might be saying why don't I go to service agencies for help? Well answer is that I spend most of my days doing just that but they are overwhelmed. I am on housing lists statewide but it can take up to FIVE YEARS to get placed. The goal is to get on subsidized housing where I would pay 30% of my income. I am working with an agency in Cambridge called Homestart and they are wonderful but it is a numbers game.

What about homeless shelters? That is what I am doing now and it is not fun. The dry shelters that take people in fulltime are all full and with freezing weather nobody is going to leave. I am waiting on shelters in Somerville, Waltham and Cambridge calling every morning but nothing yet. Right now I am in a shelter run by Harvard students but you can only stay 14 nights at a time and then wait a week to try and get back in. You can try to call them at 9:30 PM to see if they have a 1 night bed but if they don't one is faced with the Boston shelter system which is horrfic. One morning I woke up and someone had stolen my sneakers. That is a big reason you see people sleeping in doorways and ATM's in December as people are afraid to go to the 'wet' shelters where many of the clients are drunk or on drugs. It is brutal.

I only have one blood relative now, my nephew who lives on the Cape with his wife and 2 wonderful children. They worry about me but they have their own problems as he is in the mortgage business which is a nightmare these days.

Why the blog? I will be frank...I need help to do something for my son at Christmas.

He is a sophmore in high school and he needs a laptop badly for school. To compound the problem his Mom was laid off from her job in the computer industry and she is working now at a Dunkin Donuts just to pay the mortgage. They live in a nice middle class suburb but right now it is a struggle. Since I am getting fed most nights at the shelter I let her use my food stamps ( which isn't much ) Right now I am powerless to do much except lend moral support. I do what I can, for example I rented a car Saturday so we could go to Foxboro and cheer on his high school football team in the Super Bowl ( they won!!!) and it was money well spent as it is a lifetime memory for him (and me). Still it was money I really did not have.

I saw the perfect laptop yesterday at Staples that costs $599. I really want to get it for him.

I have never been a person who would hold out a coffee cup on the street begging for help. My needs are small these days, coffee in the morning, the Globe ( and hope somebody at Starbucks throws out the Times ). I am not going to chase a miracle and blow money on lottery tickets either. So here is the deal.

I have had an account with Pay Pal when I used to use Ebay. I have the put a link to my account on the upper right of the blog. Right now I have a whopping 23 cents in the account. Perhaps over the next 3 weeks some readers may decide to make a donation. In return I will blog about my days on the streets and the people I have come to know. If I can show a side of the homeless that people don't know then that alone is worth it. I am lucky that I can use a friends computer during the day.

The one thing I want to avoid is being 'outed' in the blogger world. NOT because I care if anybody knows my situation but to protect my son. If his classmates found out they might tease him as that is what kids do.

I hope I can make this an interesting read. May you all have Happy Holidays

Thank you for reading.