When I first met Spare Change News reporter and vendor Beatrice Bell, she was standing across from the mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, holding her recording device in front of the newly elected politician’s face. It was the opening of the rush-job Southampton Street shelter and she, along with a team of Spare Change News reporters, had been invited to the January press conference.
I kept looking at this woman in her red sweater. “Now, that’s a reporter,” I said to myself, as she pushed through the sea of cameras to get the story, surrounded by veteran journalists and politicos in suits.
She beamed while the mayor spoke. No one else in the room was smiling. There was something about her approach that interested me. I couldn’t quite figure out who she was and why she was covering this important event. But I had to meet her.
It was only a few months after Walsh and his advisors had closed the condemned Long Island bridge. Hundreds of homeless men and women had been displaced from the largest city-run homeless shelter and the temperatures were dropping. At this point, no one knew that we were about to endure the snowiest winter on record. There was definite tension in the room.
I admired the tenacity of the woman in the front row before I even knew her name. Turns out that dogged reporter was one of ours—Beatrice Bell. She waved at me after the mayor had stepped away from the podium.
“Hey Sam,” she gushed, approaching me. “I’m Beatrice … Beatrice Bell.”
Her smile was infectious. We talked about some of the specifics, like what would happen to the women, as the Southampton Street shelter was a men’s-only facility. “I’ll find out,” she said.
And she did. Her article, Forgotten Women, continues to be one of Spare Change News’ most-read stories online. She’s also written some amazing first-person features, including a profile on our Roofless Hero Johnniemae James and a great piece on an infectious-diseases nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital.
When I was asked to nominate our vendor/writer of the year, it was a no-brainer. In my opinion, Bell shines and gives a much-needed voice to Boston’s female homeless population.
It’s an honor to work with her and I’m proud of what she’s been able to accomplish at Spare Change News. I recently interviewed her for Spare Change News TV and was blown away by the adversity she faced, including losing her children when she first entered the shelter system to avoid an abusive partner in the ‘90s. She’s been with Spare Change News for 22 years and continues to deliver.
She’s my hero.