If you are a fan of Black Like Me or Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, then I have a book that you will love. It’s called Homeless at Harvard: Finding Faith and Friendship on the Streets of Harvard Square and it’s by John Christopher Frame.
While Frame was a divinity student at Harvard, he spent a summer living with the homeless community of Harvard Square, so that he could better understand their circumstances. Unlike John Howard Griffin or Barbara Ehrenreich, Frame was upfront about his identity. He didn’t try to trick anyone. (Although I totally give Griffin and Ehrenreich a pass for their deceptions.)
“Homeless at Harvard” is a small book and very readable. Moms and Dads, you can find time to read this. It would also be a great piece of literature to discuss with your teens.
Frame addresses all the big issues you think about when you consider homelessness: addiction, abuse, gender issues, religion, mental health, and learned helplessness. Frame doesn’t offer any definitive answers. There’s nothing neat and tidy about the ending.
While reading this book I found myself really thinking a lot about Ayn Rand. I don’t like Objectivism at all. (I even wrote a column about it.) I think that Jesus stands for everything Ayn Rand is against.
But…if giving a panhandler money means helping them feed their cocaine addiction, then that’s not what I want to do. But how do you help? How do you know whom to help?
Near the end of “Homeless Harvard” Frame talks about relationships. You can offer a homeless person your smile and conversation. You can acknowledge their personhood. That’s important too. Frame really made me think about that in a new way.
After I finished “Homeless at Harvard” I found the author’s website. I feel like I know every person pictured. John Christopher Frame should be commended for giving them a voice.
P.S. I received a free copy of this book from Booksneeze in exchange for my honest opinion and review.