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The Mass Media

Reflections, Thoughts and Feelings

This is the second in a two part series written by Mike Murray, a fellow UMass Boston community member. In 2001 Mike worked on the project Symphony of a City and later wrote this essay describing his experiences.

The second day was much like the first, with the exception of the Boston Globe photographer who followed me around. I had my interviews with the ladies at the Carriage House Motel in Peabody, who I call the Carriage House Three. What the Three told me was the most disturbing, angering facet of this project.

These emotions are not ranked in the order they surfaced, obviously.

The three families staying at the Carriage House Motel, in addition to being homeless, have two things in common. Two of the three women, who are the sole providers of their families, are young and widowed. I did not get a chance to find out much about their marital status because it was time for these women to blow off some steam; I was ready, willing, and able to give them a chance to do so. The three women, whose names I have changed to protect their identity, are Kim, Anne, and Obie.

` Kim has four children and works at least two jobs to pay her $385 weekly rent. Is this really affordable? She is not utilizing the family shelter system (or lack thereof) because she had a disagreement with the staff members that led to her eviction and she had to find alternative housing. I won’t discuss the basis of the disagreement, but it was personal enough to get her evicted from a homeless shelter with four kids.

Kim is a waitress at a local nightclub and cleans rooms at the motel where she stays. From what I saw and heard she is doing a remarkable job considering her circumstances. Kim is trying to take adult education courses while working and raising her children. The best is yet to come because she is showing spirit and commitment to her family.

Anne is disabled due to a successfully removed brain tumor. Anne did not have much to say during the time I spent at the Carriage House Motel, although she probably had an interesting story. Anne has two children of different sexes; therefore, when she finds permanent housing she will need a three-bedroom apartment because housing requirements mandate that children of different sexes have their own bedrooms. Anne is also paying $385 in weekly rent plus $200 a month ($50 weekly) in storage for her furniture and personal belongings.

Obie is the most outspoken member of this group. She really let loose and with good reason. I have to wonder if there is a bad reason. It took two weeks for the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) to issue emergency cash funding so she could buy underwear and socks for her six-year-old daughter. Obie is paying $60 per night for her room from her tax refund and she is unsure how long she can maintain the room at this rate. Obie did mention that she is trying to get a job at the motel like Kim did to help pay for the room. Obie, along with Kim and Anne, is calling for an investigation of the DTA because of its slow response to the needs of its clients. These families and others are being asked to jump through bureaucratic hoops in order to receive the smallest assistance imaginable. What’s up with that?

Now that I have summed up the people I have spoken with and the experiences I had doing this project, it is now my turn to vent, dump, and editorialize. It is time for me to let loose like Obie did on camera.

My reflections, thoughts and feelings.

As I was making my way back to the city and the beautiful, well-lit skyline, I could not help but think that in the “City Upon A Hill,” with all the wealth and prosperity it has to offer, there should be ABSOLUTELY NO REASON why there is this amount of homelessness in Boston or anywhere else.

The United States of America has a Bill of Rights written by the founding fathers of this country over 200 years ago guaranteeing certain inalienable rights, such as freedom of the press, freedom to practice one’s own religion, etc. I hereby dare and call upon our elected officials to amend the U.S. Bill of Rights to include the right to AFFORDABLE HOUSING! RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW! As I mentioned earlier, there is absolutely no excuse or reason why this cannot and should not be accomplished. After all, the United States Congress recently passed a $1.35 TRILLION dollar, ten-year tax cut to ease the burden on upper and middle class families. I propose taking one billion plus dollars of this tax refund to establish an affordable housing trust fund for those who need it, which cannot be screwed with like the social security trust fund, and start building new housing units and rehabbing the units that are currently “offline.” When I say, “screwed with,” I mean diverting funds from one account to pay for the activities of another fund.

Come on people, we are not stupid, are we? I feel this is the only way to ease the affordable housing crisis in Boston and nationwide. It is time to unite and work as hard as necessary and do whatever it takes (within legal parameters) towards the common goal of the constitutional right of AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR ALL!!!

Finally, it is an honor and a privilege to be involved in this project. THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO MADE IT POSSIBLE!!!