Breaking news of a 500 million emergency aid package for the homeless was delivered to the New England Circle's 45th meeting, this March. The Circle topic of the evening, "Homelessness," seemed especially timely as WBZ-TV Anchorwoman Liz Walker announced that the U.S> House of Representatives had approved the aid package over a much smaller 50 million package, that very evening.
The featured guests, homeless activist Mitch Snyder and actor Martin Sheen, both played major roles in the Capitol Hill action, having slept the two nights before on the heating grates of the Library of Congress in the "Grate American Sleep-Out."
Their night in the cold provided a backdrop to Snyder's sense of urgency. "The question," he said, "is not should we act, but how we act."
Introduced by Massachusetts First Lady Kitty Dukakis, Snyder said action has meant direct confrontation with established order, action that has shaken the complacent and aroused anger from many quarters. During his combative career as Director of the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV), Snyder has held hunger strikes in the shadow of the White House, forcing the Reagan administration to make concessions to CCNV-led initiatives.
Snyder, who ties his commitment to the homeless to his belief in God, said the nation needs to mobilize its resources for the homeless as if a natural disaster had occurred.
"Absolutely nothing in the world," said Snyder, "should take precedence over our attempts to reduce that pain and suffering. That's what it means to be a human being."
by Brian O'Connor (Managing Editor, The Baystate Banner)