The invisible homeless

by Beacon Staff • April 12, 2006

This incident, as reported in both The Boston Globe and Boston Herald, went as follows: the man, Scott Capella, was sleeping beneath a tree when he was woken by two men kicking him.,On March 5, a homeless man was beaten and set on fire while sleeping in a North End park.

This incident, as reported in both The Boston Globe and Boston Herald, went as follows: the man, Scott Capella, was sleeping beneath a tree when he was woken by two men kicking him. They soon left and Capella fell back asleep. Later. the men returned, this time lighting him on fire before fleeing.

He survived and was treated at Massachusetts General Hospital. Mayor Thomas Menino called the assailants "cowards" the day after the attack.

The general consensus from the public and politicians was that this act was disgusting and heinous.

What no one seemed to address, however, was the fact that there was a man sleeping in a park in a residential neighborhood.

What happened to Capella was shocking and his attackers should be captured and swiftly brought to justice.

But the bigger problem is this: there was a homeless man sleeping in a park in my neighborhood.

As many Emerson students know, there are a lot of homeless people living in Boston.

The fact that our school, the "Campus on the Common," is located in the heart of the city means we encounter the homeless more often than our compatriots at schools in Cambridge, Fenway and the suburbs.

Quite frankly, something has to be done.

Let's see some action from the top-from the mayor, or better yet, from the building casting a shadow on the homeless lounging on Boston Common: the State House.

In light of the Capella incident, a bill has been introduced before the state legislature that would classify crimes against the homeless as hate crimes.

How exactly does this help?

I fail to see how this action is going to get people like Scott Capella off the street and back on their feet.

So while the state government that represents the Emerson student body and other citizens is sitting in a legislative session debating, the homeless remain on the streets.

Classifying such horrific crimes as hate crimes is a start, but we are still avoiding the larger problem.

If there were no homeless, then we wouldn't need to worry about them being the targets of crimes.

The solution here is not a crime law, but more shelters, help and money for the downtrodden who line Boston's streets.

Politicians get paid to debate this bill. Why doesn't everyone in the legislature volunteer their pay for the days they waste talking about this useless bill and donate that money to a homeless shelter, soup kitchen or rehabilitation program?

Mr. Mayor, why don't you, the champion of America's walking city, make it so that tourists are not deterred from our most historic sights because they are lined with men and women sleeping on sidewalks?

City councilors, why don't we worry about opening more shelters?

The answer here is not from creating a law that doesn't directly address the problem at hand. It comes instead from lending a helping hand.