The streets of Concord can be seen as lively, diverse and beautiful, particularly in the last few weeks with trees and perennials in full pre-summer bloom, but to others that beauty is superficial.
The railroad tracks beneath South Main Street and Stickney Avenue are trashed, literally, with strewn articles of clothing, slashed tents and food wrapper remnants.
These depressing and dangerous sites are disheartening not only because of the filth but because they show the living conditions of some homeless individuals in Concord.
Homelessness in Concord has skyrocketed over the past five years. Mothers, fathers and young adults regularly stand on street corners holding signs that read, “Anything will help” or “Looking for work, donations, etc. God bless.”
Concord agencies provide winter housing at such locations as the Edna McKenna House (Salvation Army) on South Fruit Street and the First Congregational Church on North Main Street, but these overcrowded shelters close for the season in mid-April. Many homeless begin camping in tents near the railroad tracks, and, like people everywhere, homeless people generate trash.
Concord police try to help discourage camping around the railroad tracks by slashing tents and clearing underbrush. They have also increased patrols and made arrests for trespassing and public drinking.
The Friendly Kitchen on South Commercial Street tries a different tack. Workers there have a motto: “Eating is not a privilege – it is a human right.” They express compassion and faith in people getting back on their feet by providing food year-round, serving breakfast from 8-9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, lunch from 12-12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and dinner every evening from 5-6 p.m.
People hold strong opinions about Concord’s homeless community. Those who have succumbed to substance abuse, violence and criminal mischief have given the homeless community a bad reputation. But many of its individuals are talented artists, musicians, and carpenters. Ingenious street art by the homeless can be found throughout Concord with intricate, colored signatures making for excellent urban photography.
In order to help relieve homelessness, more individuals in the Concord community need to help, not only by donating to shelters or the local soup kitchen, but also through social connections.
A simple visit to the Concord Public Library or to the Friendly Kitchen can help brighten the day of somebody struggling to survive, for among the negative and violent there are those with passion and hope, needing only a helping hand.