Unwanted pity, and an unfair hike

James Shearer
Spare Change News

Just a couple of small items as we finish taking down the tree.

Pity is a dirty word

As I was selling papers shortly before Christmas, a woman came up to me and said while she couldn’t give me any money, she offered me a holiday bag.

Usually I don’t take gifts when I’m selling papers, but this time I did, figuring it was food or maybe something else useful that I could pass on to someone who really needed. I thought, what a nice thing to do as I watched her pass out these bags to other street people.

That is, until I saw what was in the bag.

It contained soaps, body wash, hand sanitizers, etc. Things that you need when taking a shower. Maybe most street folk wouldn’t find this insulting, but I did.

Why? Because it implies that homeless people are unclean and nasty. I would have liked to have informed this poor girl that for the most part, homeless people manage to keep themselves pretty clean. In fact, most of us are more than a little obsessive about it.

Also, she would be happy to find out that much of the stuff she put in these bags are given away freely at shelters every single day.

Now I know that some of you reading this will say I’m getting upset over nothing, and maybe you are right. I’m just really tired of so-called normal people’s ignorance when it comes to homelessness, that we all are drunks, or mentally irregular, or dangerous or dirty, when in fact some of us are the smartest, friendliest people in the world. We are compassionate and generous to a fault. Most of all, we are survivors.

This lady probably has no idea what it’s like to put up with some of the things that we street people have to put up with on a daily basis. But we get through it and make it to another day.

The other thing that irks me about this is how after 20 years, people who see you selling the paper still think you are panhandling. Listen, folks, we are selling a product — a street newspaper called Spare Change News — not begging. I know it’s the name of the paper, but hey, we’re not going to change it now.

This lady’s heart was in the right place; still, being homeless doesn’t mean you don’t shower.

Fare Hikes

The MBTA is at it again. I’m talking fare hikes folks as much as 43 percent, which means riding the bus could cost $1.75 while riding the subway could cost $2.40 with the Charlie Card.

Wait, I thought the Charlie Card was designed to give people a discount. Guess not. Silly me. On top of all that they may drastically cut both commuter rail and ferry service. What?

People don’t work weekends any more, I guess. And so they intend to cut weekend service. Not only will that hurt those who have to get to Boston for work, it would cripple tourism big time.

“Waddaya mean, mom, we can’t go to the Witch House in Salem,” to which mom will sadly replay, “No, Suzy, we can’t honey because Boston doesn’t have commuter rail service on the weekend and a bus ride there will take two hours, and that’s not counting the wait time at Wonderland.”

What kind of a Mickey Mouse outfit doesn’t have commuter rail service on the weekends? Somebody give these people a gift bag full of common sense. The economy is still in the toilet, I know of four people who got layoff slips for Christmas, people are still out of work, and these blowhards want to raise fares. Really?

People tell me all the time that I’m too hard on the T, and yes I am, I mean how can they ask for fare hikes with their still shoddy service? The buses and trains still don’t run on time, the commuter rail trains are old and outdated, and most of their bus and subway operators are some of the most miserable and rude people I’ve ever met.

Not to mention the fact that some of their so-called public bathrooms are no longer public. I have had T employees tell me that the bathrooms are only for them.

And the worse part is, folks, we’re just going roll over and take it. If it’s so easy to say no to a homeless person asking for change, why can’t we say no to these clowns who come to us every couple of years with hat in hand, talking about being broke?

Who is doing the books over there, anyway? The T’s ridership is through the roof, how are they broke?

But as I said before, we’re not going to do anything about it, and apparently neither is the governor. Last time the T tried to raise fares, Gov. Patrick helped put an end to it. He and the rest of the State House spent countless hours over the casino bill, why can’t they do the same now, for this? Somebody needs to. But no one will.

And little Suzy will continue to wait.

JAMES SHEARER is board president and a co-founder of Spare Change News.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

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