Occupy Boston: Homeless Occupiers Speak Out

Nakia Hill
Spare Change News

Occupy Boston has become home to homeless people in the city who have been waiting for a public sphere to voice their opinions about the economic disparities in the country.

The movement acts as a safer haven than underneath bridges, the gritty streets they sleep on and the crowded shelters. It also provides food, medical support and clothes for everyone.

Tracy Singleton, 20, has been homeless for 10 months, and Occupy Boston has provided him a sense of community and safety from the streets. “I’m out here because I’m homeless and it’s better than sleeping on the street.”

Singleton has been participating in the movement since the beginning and he said it makes being homeless easier. He also believes that people like his parents, who are not aware of his participation in the movement, may not understand his involvement, like the people who drive by Dewey Square and yell vulgar slurs at the Occupiers.

Jeff “King Smooth” Clementen, a college student, has heard non-occupiers stereotype him and other occupiers by labeling them as lazy complainers. “When I see people ride by, they’re screaming get a job, go home, but they don’t understand why we’re here.”

“What they don’t know is [a lot] of these people go to school, have jobs and have homes. They’re here because they choose to and because they really believe in this movement,” Clement said.

Clementen said he relates to Singleton and other homeless occupiers because he was once homeless. Although he has a home, he camps out in Dewey Square because he has read about revolutions like the civil rights movement, so he wanted to experience something similar in his generation.

“We’re down here trying to fend for the next dollar. The rich get richer and the poor stay poor, we’re trying to change that,” Clementen said.

Homelessness has knocked on the front door of Carlos Arredondo’s home in the form of a foreclosure notice. Arredondo occupies the Camp Alex tent in honor of his son who was killed in the war in Iraq. Arredondo was recently called a “beggar,” which he immediately took offense to, but later found empowerment within that word.

“I realized, that’s right, I’m a beggar. I’m a beggar here for my constitutional right. I’m a beggar here for peace. I’m a beggar here for what I need to beg for because we’re in a place where if we don’t beg, we don’t get anywhere,“ said Arredondo.

Arredondo has witnessed a divide between occupiers and those who pose as occupiers, but are drug dealers and users. He said that Dewey Square is a busy area that is no stranger to drugs and homelessness, which has been difficult for police, St. Anthony Church and the Veterans Center to control before the Occupy Boston movement. “It’s nothing new here except for us.”

“When [Boston Mayor Thomas] Menino decides to remove all of these camps, the camp might be gone, the grass is going to grow, but the problem is still going to be here, which is drugs, alcohol and homelessness,” said Arredondo.

Kenneth Albert Thomas, a veteran and formally homeless man, found hope in the Somerville Homeless Coalition, an agency that helped him move from the streets into his own apartment. He is trying to find solidarity and optimism in the Occupy Boston movement and the lower-class occupiers.

“It’s hard to believe that solidarity is as consistent as the solidarity that the elite have. Sometimes I don’t think that the homeless and the poor have enough solidarity, but I hope that this movement strengthens that. I’m hopeful.”

NAKIA HILL is a Spare Change News writer and editor.

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