Beds at the Southhampton Street homeless shelter.

NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO

When was the last time you really thought about homeless people and their struggles? Perhaps you've given a person experiencing homelessness a few cents, but there are struggles that money alone can't fix. These problems are systemic, but a statewide homeless bill of rights could offer a solution.

Many people experiencing homelessness have struggles beyond finding clothes or their next meal. Many may be turned away from homeless shelters due to their particular situations -- for example, if they are accompanied by a dog. Imagine having to choose between a place to sleep and an animal that you consider your family. Many homeless shelters do not allow pets, and for some people experiencing homelessness, their pets are their only companions. Why  make others choose between their family and a roof over their heads?  

As citizens, we do not just want to raise awareness about the problem, but solve it as well. We are advocating for a new Massachusetts bill that would give all people experiencing homelessness access to any shelter. In the past, bills of rights for people experiencing homelessness have been proposed in the Massachusetts legislature. However, these bills were blocked.

With the proper encouragement from the public, politicians may gain the knowledge and motivation to pass the legislation. Everyone’s voice is essential to our success. You, specifically, can help this cause by raising awareness, and some simple ways to do this are sharing this article, informing friends and family, and contacting legislators. 

 

Additionally, there will be a symposium about this issue, as well as many others, on May 28, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the American Legion Post on 295 California St. in Newton. Your attendance would be greatly appreciated, but more importantly, you will become more informed about our efforts to create a homeless bill of rights. By reading this article, you now have taken the first step towards creating change, and we hope that you will take a few more.

This Op-Ed was written by students from Bigelow Middle School in Newton, Mass. Their class is working to help people experiencing homelessness who are not allowed in private shelters because of their particular circumstances. David Estabil and Jonathan Garrity are 8th graders at Bigelow Middle School. David has two cats and loves to spend time with his family and friends. He has a creative mind, loves seeing the world and exploring the outdoors. When he grows up, he wants to make a change in the world, so writing a op-ed is a good start. He gets most of his motivation from his parents who always push him to do his best. Jonathan enjoys playing multiple sports and instruments. He loves traveling and trying new food. Overall, he is pragmatic and open to new experiences.

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