Cold Weather, Colder Reality

Quincy COPE has been serving food and love at South Station for years with little or no complaints, that is until now. Apparently one of the Station’s security guards probably with nothing better to do approached Suzanne Featherstone (who is seen by many as the leader of the Quincy contingent) and the other volunteers and said they couldn’t serve food to the homeless.
So I ventured out on this bitterly cold night to find out what all the buzz was about, a couple of the local channels had already covered this story in fact the Mayor himself had chimed in, so had the MBTA police, things seemed OK, but upon my arrival to South Station it didn’t seem that way something was off, the station was a little more crowded than it usually is with the homeless,and why not? This was one of the coldest nights of the year and a massive snowstorm was on the doorstep.

A couple of weeks ago I put on a very heavy winter jacket and went out to South Station on one of the coldest nights of the year  to meet up with a friend to see if there was anything to this story.
For a few years now Quincy COPE, a spunky volunteer organization associated with Hingham COPE, and Project Do Something have been going out a few times a week and providing rough sleepers (people who prefer to sleep on the streets rather than shelters) with, food, clothing, blankets, supplies,  and a whole lot of love and compassion.

A whole lot of people had crowded into the station to take shelter, and in the middle of all this was Suzanne and the other COPE volunteers. She and the other volunteers were serving food, handing out blankets, tending to people’s needs and those are the station showed their appreciation.

Standing a few feet away were the security guards and members of Boston’s Public Health Commission. And when I say standing, I mean doing absolutely nothing. They were making observations or something, but they weren’t helping out, and just a few steps away from them was a man laying on the cold floor.

None of them checked to see if he was OK.
They told Suzanne they wanted to work with her but they didn’t look like it. When they were approached by the other person covering this story, some of them walked away or didn’t want to talk. I always get curious when public officials won’t talk to the press.

Were they told not to? Was it too cold? Why were they even there?

About 150  homelessness crammed into a transit station, many avoiding the often overcrowded homeless shelters. Homelessness is worse than ever thanks to a lack of real low-income housing, lack of solutions to the opioid crisis, inadequate mental health care infrastructure,  and a real lack of a policies to address any of this.

No amount of Public Officials claiming in front of TV cameras or feel good news stories with organizations patting themselves on the back after giving a homeless person a makeover will convince me otherwise.

Public Officials always say the right things on camera, but when the lights go out things seem decidedly different. There were unconfirmed stories that Quincy COPE was being discouraged from helping homeless people by the very city officials who said they wanted to help. Their actions at South Station that night didn’t do much to convince me that there was nothing to them.

I’m quite sure Mayor Walsh’s heart is in the right place and he is genuinely putting forth his best effort trying to help and hopefully end homelessness in Boston -maybe some of his employees should try embracing his enthusiasm. As for the people from COPE, Thank God for people like them, their compassion and care for those less fortunate is the Way we should be treating human beings. Perhaps the BPHC should take notes.

James Shearer

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

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