His Name Was Joshua

After I attended the Homeless Memorial Service I came across a story that made me shake my head. A man, Clifton Moore, had been indicted for the murder of a homeless man named Joshua Rivera, age 54, in Charlestown. The crime was committed on Sept. 6 and according to the published details it was brutal. Witnesses allegedly  saw Moore with either a long stick or bat hammering a park bench, and after he left people found Rivera’s body on the bench.

Those that know me are aware that I have long been in favor of adding attacks on the homeless to the hate crime statutes. I still stand by that, but I still wonder: Do homeless lives matter? They apparently do to the Boston Police Department and to the District Attorney’s office who worked tirelessly on this case.

Maybe the title of this column should be“do homeless lives matter to local media?” Why? There has been very little local media coverage on Mr. Rivera’s murder. There was a couple of reports when it actually happened, but that was about it. I know many of you are probably saying, “so?” Well, when there is media coverage about a crime like this there is usually wall to wall coverage. We not only get told about the crime itself but we get coverage about the person’s life, family, etc. Before we know it, within a week’s time we know more about that person than we need or even wanted to know. Doesn’t a homeless person who was brutally murdered in the middle of the night deserve the same kind of coverage?

Who was Joshua Rivera? Where was he from? I can assume he wasn’t born homeless, right? Did he have family? Friends? Children? How did he end up homeless? Surely he deserves to be covered with the same kind of dignity and respect that would be given to some upwardly mobile suburban white person? After all, he is a human being.

I’ve seen stories on abused animals left for dead in a park get better coverage. But maybe the media isn’t really interested in a story about Mr. Rivera and who he was.

I’ve always personally had issues with the way local media and even national media sometimes cover homelessness. As I’ve often said, they’re either pitying us or demonizing us. The pity always comes during the holidays with those insane photo-ops. You all know,  the ones with political figures serving turkey with all the trimmings in a homeless shelter which always misleads you that those same politicians are doing all they can to support the homeless. If there were news cameras covering the Homeless Memorial Service every year there would be no shortage of city and state officials falling over themselves for screen time.

Then there’s the negative coverage, homeless people being portrayed as “crazy” or “drunken bums” or “junkies” or “dangerous.” There are some positive stories around homelessness, but most of them are about how non-profit organizations save people, with hardly anything about the people themselves.

This man was a human being, and deserves more than just the headline “Homeless man beaten to death.” That man’s name is Joshua Rivera.

James Shearer

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

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