Homeless Men Describe Lives in the Streets

Speak to Students at St. Pauls

Cambridge's homeless came in doors yesterday, not to find shelter, but to describe their lives to students gathered at St. Paul's Church.

"In the three years I've been on the streets, I've been burned out of three or four spots, ripped off in my sleep," said Bob Dannenberg, one of two homeless men who spoke to a small crowd at the Catholic church.

The program, sponsored by the church and the Catholic Students Association, included a film, "The Shopping Bag Lady," and talks by two students--R. Stewart Guernsey, a Divinity School student, and Michelle Rugo '85--involved in aiding the homeless.

"It is dehumanizing to be homeless. Many have no one to talk to, nowhere for privacy or intimacy," said Guernsey.

"Lots of shelters are closed in the summer. People sleep outside, and are vulnerable. Many sleep in groups together in the bushes," added Rugo.


According to Dannenberg, there are 6,000 homeless in the Boston area alone, and a great inadequacy of shelters. "Pine Street Inn, which is the largest shelter, only has 300 beds, and on the coldest day of the winter, Pine Street is carpeted with bodies," he added.

Currently, the sole shelter in Cambridge is located in the basement of the University Lutheran Church, near the Intramural Athletic Building.

Guernsey said the shelter, which he founded with the Phillips Brooks House, is an emergency overnight shelter run by students with 23-24 mattresses. The shelter is open every night during the winter, he added.

Dannenberg said the Harvard shelter became more important after a shelter in Central Square closed down.

Dannenberg added that the shelter at University Lutheran is "far superior to anything that Boston has to offer. The staff are volunteers and interested."

"The Boston shelters are understaffed, run by low-wage workers, often ex-street people themselves, and poorly trained," he said.

The students said the job of caring for the homeless has been made even more difficult by cutbacks in government aid.

"With current budgetary cutbacks, people have been pushed on the streets with every intention to set up halfway houses. Money got short and no intermediate kinds of institutions were established," said Guernsey.

In response to the need for more transitional kinds of housing, Rugo and Guernsey are working on a housing, project in Dorchester which will "hopefully have more intensive rehabilitation," said Guernsey.

Rugo, a sociology major in Adams House, who is working on her thesis and at shelters while taking this semester off, said volunteers are always needed, especially at The Dorchester House in Boston, which she said is especially understaffed