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There are no ‘small mercies’ to being homeless

A rainy May night in Boston, around Massachusetts Avenue.
A rainy May night in Boston, around Massachusetts Avenue.Barry Chin/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

Contrary to Alex Beam’s claim, there are no “small mercies” to being homeless on the streets of America during a pandemic (”Small mercies in the midst of the coronavirus,” Opinion, June 19). That the Globe would publish such a column on Juneteenth, given the inequitable impact homelessness has had on Black Americans, is deeply troubling. Black people represent 13 percent of the population in this country, but 40 percent of the homeless population. Resistance to COVID-19 among homeless people in cities such as Boston and Los Angeles is no consolation. In fact, recent COVID-19 data indicate a mortality rate for Black Americans that is about 2.3 times higher than for whites and Asians.

Racism and homelessness are public health crises that are inexorably linked. Housing, like health care, is part of a larger systemic issue of inequitable access to the benefits assumed to be a part of our lives as Americans.


We should be working to create stable, permanent, supportive housing. In reality, people are struggling to survive both on the streets and in overcrowded shelters. What we need is investment in housing, the most effective deterrent against disease, not acceptance of homelessness.

Joe Finn

President and executive director

Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance