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I DO want to continue the discussion about the park across from Fiores

I commend you for closing that discussion, Mr. Porcelli. To think that anyone would attack an individual like that who has contributed so much to our community has my blood boiling. To all the suburbanites who don't want to have to see down-and-outs play dominoes in the shade--and a city liason who has suggested cutting trees down so there won't be shade! To these people I would suggest moving to Andover so you can suck your thumb and nurse your gin and tonic in peace.

Whit Hendon

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I walk by that corner often, and I see the people who have been referred to. They are members of our community. If they're not doing well, what shall we do about it? Aren't there other ***better*** alternatives to shooing them away? Perhaps as a society we should re-prioritize our spending, to provide opportunities and services. Did you know that the contracts let by the Department of Mental health to provide residential and rehabilitation services for homeless mentally ill people saw no Cost of Living Adjustments from 1988 to the present? Now, those contracts have been rebid to reconfigure services, but no additional dollars have been added to the system. Do you know that 92,000 children are homeless in Massachusetts this year and that there are only 3,500 beds for them in shelters right now?
Thanks! I appreciate the support. It's always sad when someone who doesn't know you and hasn't bothered to speak with you slanders you publicly. Good to know I have friends out there who understand that kindness and compassion are not crimes, and that being homeless does not make one a bad person. I am proud to say that the guys in the park are my friends, and will continue to help them in whatever way I can to make their lives better. They certainly make mine better and enrich my daily existence. If people would bother to talk to some of these guys, they would realize that they in general are interesting and intelligent people, who have encountered bad circumstances in life. But for good fortune, we all could potentially find ourselves in their situation.

I am not blind to the fact that some of the gentlemen that appear at the park occasionally have substance abuse and or other issues, but the ones whom I have gotten to know would like nothing more than to get out of their current situation and better themselves. Yes, they are sometimes loud, and I am not so naive as to think that everything that happens with everyone in the park is innocent. As far as the supposed numerous illegal activities that occur, though, or any threat to anyone's welfare or well-being, generally these fellows are kind, gentle, and not interested in creating difficulties for themselves or others. Rather than judging them and those of us who do not treat them as less than human without ever getting to know any of us, perhaps the people who are disturbed by their behavior might try to get to know them, also, and discuss their concerns with them.

Thanks, sincerely, Cat Thomson, president, Petal and Leaf
If stating FACTS means I'm a "suburbanite that needs to move to Andover to suck my thumb and nurse gin an tonic" then that's what I am I guess...
fact. most of the people who have been sitting at that bench for the past 2 months do consume alcohol and have been seen by many doing so, they have been arrested or cited in numerous occasions as well
fact. I have NOTHING against ANYBODY playing dominoes, cards, checkers or whatever else in the shade. Why would I?
fact. I, too; think "cutting the trees" is not addressing the issue
fact. the discussion was abruptly closed without giving ANYBODY the chance to express their views or to continue a productive discussion. if the comments made by us "gin and tonic suburbanites" were incorrect or contained misinformation why wasn't that stated, where is the fairness there?
Attacking Ms. Thomson in such a personal manner, anonymously, is uncalled for and cowardly. I am sure that there is a need for this discussion and I am also sure that we all say things in the heat of the moment which we regret later. Perhaps that is the case now? Wouldn't it be nice if on one of these threads we could find the courage to apologize for unkind behavior?

Whit Hendon
Regardless of any personal attack against me, which I admit was not pleasant to read, I think it might also be pointed out that despite the fact that the guys in the park are homeless, they also are educated and some of them spend a fair bit of time using the computers at the library. It isn't very nice to know that people are referring to you as "scum" or "drunks and thieves". Just because you sit in the comfort of your home with your own computer does not absolve you from responsibility for the things you say or the prejudices you express.

Many of the people out there have a hard enough time maintaining any sense of dignity or self-worth, given their current circumstances. If we wish people on the outside edges of our society to interact well with us, it might be nice to consider their feelings, as well. These are human beings, with the same emotions and need for love and respect as anyone else. I don't require any apology for myself, as I stand by my own actions and don't need them validated by every and anyone, but it might be nice to give the guys a little respect. They are simply trying to live and survive, and adding hate and intolerance to their existence makes their already difficult lives just a little bit more unpleasant.
One thing about JP that I always liked was it's sense of community, and it's true diversity. Sometimes we need to be reminded that diversity also applies to socio-economics as well, and not all of us have the same opportunities (or disadvantages for that matter). I'm concerned that if we're not careful, JP may suffer the same fate that the South End seems to have experienced-and that many former South Enders lament-homogenization and a loss of community.
I moved in to the city from the suburbs to enjoy this diversity, which as an adult gay single father was not a feature enjoyed in the burbs. This was over 10 years ago, but the fear of anything different still exists in the burbs, and is growing here in the city instead of going in the other direction.
I work near and have walked by the park mentioned alot of times, and when I walk by, I see people waiting for the bus, kids playing in the tennis/basketball courts, pedestrians, and people at the benches, some who appear to be homeless, and some who I am not sure of their station in life. I also see an increasing amount of pedestrian traffic of all kinds. In any event, the type of activity I have seen is people playing dominoes, talking, and every once in a while a person sleeping on the bench. It reminds me that I live in a city where everyone is not the same,nor are they on the same path, a fact that I think should be celebrated.
No sane person likes the idea of homelessness, but it's a problem that exists, and will continue to exist especially now that the economy has soured. We can't shoot these people, or hide them. It's important that we don't lump all folks from any group together with some who may be doing something unhealthy or illegal. Thank you to the social workers who I've seen visiting with these folks at the South St Plaza in Jamaica plain and all over the city.
As far as personal attacks on individuals, I happen to know that the individual mentioned has been contributing to the Jamaica Plain Community in a positive way for many years. I have shopped at this persons business, and continue to refer folks to do the same. As a member of the community, I will continue to SUPPORT this person as best I can.
Thats what community is about-isn't it??
Cat, you're so right that any of us might find ourselves in their position. I am fortunate to have worked with homeless people who were mentally ill for 20+ years. I know Ivy League grads, and children of captains of industry whose schizophrenia is so debilitating that they can barely participate in our shared reality. I have known many people who have seemed to be down-and-outers who have gotten a helping hand and transformed their lives into something I admire. Google my friend Moe Armstrong, for instance.
One of the guys in the park used to be a high-flier at Fidelity, and is a BC alum. Circumstances change, and it sometimes takes very little to fall very far. So, yes, appearances can be very deceiving. I hope that the little I can do will help change the situation of at least a few of these guys, or at least provide them with some enjoyment.

I commend you on your work...I'm sure it is often difficult, but what an amazing career you have chosen! I am about to google Moe...
This is veering off topic. The thread started regarding ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES AND ABUSE OF PUBLIC SPACE, which nobody is refuting upfront or with any conviction.
I’m going to try an “all in one response” to all the postings so far,
1. I want to start by stating again that closing the thread abruptly deprived everyone of the ability of making rebuttals, expressing more points of view, debunk or confirm what is being stated by others and was in itself a bad and cowardly move.
2. To Whit: If we are going to cry “personal attack” you might want to refrain of doing that yourself, Whit. After all, we suburbanites who sip gin and tonic don’t take that kindly either.
3. To Tim: Questioning how to prioritize spending and where money goes is a point for another thread, I’m not going to fall into discussing politics and how the great state of MA manages the funds it collects so punctually from all working stiffs like me on every paycheck and anytime I need to buy pretty much anything.
4. To Cat: I think I have stated facts, not fabrications of my suburbanite mind. I’m not against kindness and compassion, when they are reciprocated with respect and positive change. I don’t see how some of these individuals are going to change their situation by sitting at a park bench all day with drunks, for weeks on end; I just don’t see it. The “supposed numerous illegal activities” have in fact occurred. That has been been verified by law enforcement’s arrests and citations. Naïve is defined as having or showing lack of judgment or information. If most of these guys are in fact homeless and down on their luck; where do they get the money to buy alcohol? Cell phones? Where did they get the money to get bicycles, and if they needed them, how come they sold them? Do they give bicycles away somewhere so I can get some and then sell them myself? Because I’ve been trying to buy one for the longest time, but they are too expensive for my budget, and selling bikes wouldn’t be a bad part time gig for me. I contend your definition of “sometimes” when talking about their loudness… I’m very aware that this is an urban environment and is noisy by definition, but I expect to be able to have a peaceful sleep without being awaken by loud music coming from the street, hollering, or breaking noises past 1 AM. I don’t think that’s too lofty an expectation, even in the city.
5. To Whit, again: I don’t regret - and will not apologize for - stating facts. I have already conceded that there seem to be some individuals who may be harmless, BUT they mingle with elements that have been proven (by their arrests and citations by law enforcement) to be bad elements of society. Cat may have the best intentions in the world, but her helping the few individuals who may be worthy of such help has encouraged the bad elements to hitch a comfy ride along the way, and that’s BECAUSE these few "good guys" make no effort to differentiate and separate themselves from the bad elements.
6. To Joe, you touched on so many different issues that have little to do with the core of this thread that I will only say this: I do have much respect for the social workers, their job is an uphill battle and their successes many times go unnoticed and unrewarded. I have nothing against any type of diversity, economical or otherwise, I do have a beef however with individuals who have no respect for their fellow community members. I firmly believe my rights and liberties end where the rights and liberties of others begin. I don’t see any respect for my rights and liberties on the side of most of these individuals.
7. Tim and Cat, yes, any of us can fall, and fall very hard sometimes, but how you deal with it is what shows what you’re worth as a human being. I by no means lead a cushy life or “have it made”, not by a long shot, and I have encountered as many obstacles as anyone else in life. If a person needs a little (or a lot) of help to get out of the hole they fall in, they look for it, they take it and are grateful for it when they receive it, make the best of it, and move on. They don’t sit at a park bench all day and all night alongside drunks. Period.
Everyone should be so strong and righteous. It's great that you share your philosphies on life in such a candid way on this open and public forum. It's unfortunate that we all can't thank you personally for your kind words of wisdom, but your post is anonymous. Too bad-when that park has all of it's trees removed and is "cleaned up" for the good of our community, a statue in your likeness would have been a fitting monument, but alas-it is not to happen.
Keep up the good fight of cleaning up the "mean streets" of this terribly blighted urban area.

I walk this street of hopeless dreams,
It's not as bad as homeless seems.
Another hit will numb the pain;
I steal from others, an easy gain.
Dumpsters are my main nutrition
I take what I can with no precision.
Eyes follow my every footfall.
Their glares damned me when I stood tall.
The cold of the winter hit hard everyday
The unbearable heat of summer makes me hate every ray.
Too much time has gone with no food to hit home
No matter how hard I look or how far I roam.
My last hearts are few, I know.
For my mind is lost and my pulse is low.
Goodbye sweet world that never did love me
Goodbye, goodbye, for I am now free.

Jaide B. Davis, Canada

Am I my brothers keeper?
There you have it, the central question to living a meaningful life.

(I will admit I got rubbed the wrong way when I read the word lowlife used to refer to another human being. I have worked with a number of people who fit that description better, but they have generally worn suits and ties.)
Thanks for the poem, Loay! I makes me think of Jack McDonnells' death Dec. 4, 2003.

I don't think we're going to be able to open Ro's heart or mind with our emails. I hope she (he?) continues to be a small minority voice in my community. He or she should be accepted, too.


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