Waving signs and shouting "Homes, not bombs!" 20 people marched from Harvard Square to the State House yesterday afternoon to protest homelessness in Boston, particularly condominium conversions in the South and West Ends, and the shortage of affordable housing.
The group, composed of homeless people, the formerly homeless, shelter volunteers, students and other activists, undertook the two-hour march and joined about 30 more protesters in a rally on the steps of the State House.
"I don't understand why the room I used to rent for $35 is replaced by $100,000 condiminiums" said Mark D. Schultek, who has been homeless for two years. "There's a man running for President of the U.S. and there's not even enough housing in his home state. [Gov. Michael S.] Dukakis has made a facade effort to help the homeless," he said.
There're too many people dying on the streets," said John S. Prinsinzano, who has been homeless for eight years. Harold W. Stoe, who works as a security officer, lives at a Boston shelter. "It's more difficult to find a decent residence here than anywhere else," he said.
Shelters cannot solve the housing shortage, said Helen Lynch, one of the coordinators of the demonstration. "I've been involved in a feeding program for years," she said. "They're building an industry of shelters and soup kitchens. To me, those things should be temporary, not permanent."
Daniel Buchanan '89, who has been working with the homeless through Phillips Brooks House, said he joined the rally because "I've been working in a shelter for three years. You really become aware, going there and seeing the same people year after year, that shelters aren't solving the problem."
"People should be out working for something more substantial," Buchanan said. "It's kind of a contradiction working for a shelter. It's become an accepted institution for society to put people out of the way."
Concerned citizens should pressure their legislators to make housing a civil right and help the homeless return to normal lives, said Lynch. "If only people would write their legislators to show support," she said. "It's amazing what one letter or one phone call will do."
"Dukakis is claiming of 'The Massachusetts Miracle,'" said Boston College sophmore Katie O. Ryan. "It's hard to believe in this 'miracle' when you see the volumes of the homeless on the streets," she added.