By Isabel Puzio
On Friday October 22, seven
UCONN students from St. Thomas Aquinas church, accompanied by George Collins and Sister Alberta, headed into Boston for an
overnight stay at The Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul. Unlike hundreds of others pouring into the city and filling up hotel
rooms that weekend in anticipation of Saturday’s big baseball game at Fenway Park, we were not there for the World Series.
Boston City Reach is a program that focuses on homelessness. Several colleges and universities send students to work with the Common Cathedral
staff for two days, to run a food and clothing drive and to build awareness of what it means to be homeless. The Common Cathedral staff members that we worked with are homeless Christians who worship together at
outdoor masses on Boston Common. We arrived about 7 PM on Friday night and checked-in, along with students from UMASS Amherst,
Keene State College, and Boston University. This two-day program allowed us a
chance to get to know each other, as well as many of the homeless staff members that served as our guides. From the moment we arrived, the staff members thoroughly enjoyed making conversation with us. Talking with any of these people melts away common misconceptions about the homeless that many of us tend
to harbor. These homeless men are all highly intelligent and outgoing. They told
us one thing in particular that I know I won’t ever forget: The best thing you can give to a homeless person is your
time; time to talk, time to listen.
On Friday night, a UMASS professor, who teaches a course
on homelessness, was our guest speaker, and each of the homeless Common Cathedral staff members shared with us a little bit
about their lives. That night we broke into small groups and the staff members
took us on a tour of Boston to see where the city’s homeless often go to eat, sleep, and spend time with friends. When we returned to the church, we closed by singing and praying together. After rising
early and having breakfast we formed committees to either make sandwiches or sort donated clothing. With all of the support and coordination, everything got done quickly.
From 10 AM to 1 PM we handed out food and clothing in the basement of the church. The warm clothes went fast and people
were very grateful for their sandwiches. Some of us walked the streets of Boston, handing out sandwiches to those homeless
who did not attend the drive. Afterwards, we cleaned =up the basement of the church, and heard a second guest speaker. We
then got into groups and discussed the issue of homelessness and about what we learned that weekend.
I think we were all amazed and touched by the Common
Cathedral Staff. Not only were these homeless men willing to share with us their
stories and details about their lifestyles, but also the strength of their faith in God, despite hardships. One particularly religious man referred to bibles as “God’s cellphones.” This same man
offered me his jacket later that day when I was cold outside. This is someone who has almost nothing, offering me the one
extra thing that he had on his back. This experience was a very rich and humbling one. We left with a greater awareness of
homelessness and what it entails, along with a new way of seeing the homeless. After
actually getting to know some of the homeless, it will undoubtedly become personal and something very near to your heart.