Monday, November 4th 2019
Today is the day Mayor McGovern invited my friend Victor to come in to the Mayor’s Office in City Hall to address his homelessness. When I met up with Victor to accompany him to the meeting, he asked if his friend Michael could come along. They are bunk mates at the First Church Shelter. So the three of us boarded the train together for one whole stop from Harvard to Central Square. They each have disability vouchers to ride the train -this is one of the ways they are able to stay warm- and I am thankful I was able to recently refill my own T pass.
Michael has been a life long fisherman in Gloucester (where we know some of the same people). He even worked aboard the famous “Andrea Gale” a year before it famously sank, as depicted in the “The Perfect Storm” movie. Then one day riding his bike he was hit by a car that fled the scene, taken to a shit-hole hospital that x-rayed his many broken bones and sent him home that same very night. He limps with a cane and does not complain.
I also learned that the reason Victor is homeless is because he came down with cancer, was no longer able to work as an auto-mechanic, and lost the apartment he had in Boston. My impression is that his alcoholism has come out of his homelessness, not the other way around.
I am struck to have been accompanied today by two very lovely and congenial men who are walking embodiments of the exact system failures my boyfriend Bernie Sanders crusades against EVERY. DAMN. DAY.
Here are two productive members of society with lively vocations who are knocked off their feet and out of their homes by medical emergencies.
If that is not the definition of “There but by the Grace of God go I,” I don’t know what is.
To quote Bernie: “No one should become bankrupt -or homeless- because of a medical diagnosis.”
Anyway, as anticipated in the meeting, the Mayor is not imbued with any magical powers to fix things, and both men understood this. But he did give them a particular name (Maura Pensack) of a contact (Housing Liaison) at our homeless advocacy place (Cambridge Mutli-Service Center). And we did discuss at length the issues facing our homeless, both generally and specifically. The Mayor shared with them some of the efforts, issues, obstacles, hopes and plans he’s dealt with in addressing some of the many challenges.
I think we all appreciated learning about it all, and being involved in such an enriching discussion. Plus City Hall is our hall and it is beautiful and the Mayor’s Office especially so.
At one point Michael said, “I wouldn’t want your job,” empathizing with how complicated and vast the challenges are. And Victor was excellent at stating the truth simply and clearly, not just about his own needs but of those who are worse off than him; those that don’t have daily access to FOOD for example.
I praised the Mayor for taking his time on the DAY BEFORE AN ELECTION to address the needs of these two gentlemen who by definition cannot even VOTE. Of note, we were the third of at least four meetings the Mayor was hosting this MORNING… ALL about HOUSING. He also asked Victor and Michael if, after the election and before positions change in January, they would be willing to participate in a focus group he’s facilitating around these issues.
I also left there so much more confused on the political issues around housing in our town, as the Mayor McGovern and my professed #1 Councilor Zondervan are on opposing sides of the same team in terms of ideological approach to addressing the same issues. So basically, my ignorance is showing. The more I learn the more I don’t know. Argh.
And under it all I just have to say how lovely these two men are to be around. Sweet, honest, optimistic and not at all self-pitying.
“Shedooby!” Michael says.
“Shedooby,” says Victor.
“That means Life Goes On,” says Michael.
And Victor says, “You talk too much.”
To be continued!