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The People Next To You Project

Jessie Anderson, Writer

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This past year, the school participated in a fund raiser for the homeless. The proceeds went to an independent study that is run by Pentucket’s own Senior, Samantha Graves. She shares the story of homelessness in nearby Haverhill in hopes that people will be more empathetic to homeless people.

Her project began this past Summer when she went to a summer class at George Mason University. Students were tasked with creating a project that would affect their community. Graves was inspired by her own experiences with homelessness when her family’s house burned down in a fire when she was four years old. She says that she “knew some of the struggles and knew that a lot of people think homelessness is just because of one or two reasons like drug addiction or domestic violence, but I knew that there were so many other reasons why it happened, and I wanted to let people be able to show their own reasons so that people would not just assume.”

She called this project “The People Next to You”. With the help of a mentor from the university, she began her project this past November. She reached out to Joe Demore, who is a homeless advocate from Groveland, and he told her to start going to the bagged lunch program facilitated by the Common Grounds Cafe in Haverhill. She began attending the lunch program held in the GAR Park in Haverhill each week for three months to gain a certain level of trust. She also attended the dinners that Common Ground Cafe held each friday night. The people she saw each week began to ask if she was coming back. With her persistence in attending these programs, she was able to ask people if they would be willing to share their story.

At first, people were reluctant to be interviewed, since their stories would be going on the internet. The first person she interviewed had been homeless with her husband for five years. She conducted the interview in September, and she found out that this woman has recently moved into an apartment! Sam says, “This is something I really like to see, because I have known her for so long, and her story was all about how she couldn’t escape homelessness and then she did.”

With the opportunity to interview homeless people in Haverhill, she has learned that “Everyone’s story is so complex. There is no one reason that people become homeless. It is kind of like a cascade of little things that happen that they can’t control.”

One quote that stuck out to her was that “we are all one or two steps away from homelessness at any time.” “People look down on people that are homeless, but that could be you, the only thing that separates a homeless person from a non-homeless person is a house.”

Society tends to blame the homeless person for placing himself in that position, but she has seen time and time again that people are homeless because of something they cannot control.

The most common situation that leaves a person homeless, she says, is when someone tries to leave a relationship involving domestic abuse. She says that these people lose their children because of misguided laws surrounding homelessness, like if you do not have a house, you cannot have your kids.

Most of all, Graves wants people to see that we are all human and that we are equal. She has found that the people she interviews are simply looking for compassion, since there are enough shelters and food banks to sustain them. “They need understanding from people to know that they are not worthless and to know that they did not deserve this.¨

This project deserves recognition as it highlights and destroys the misconceptions of homelessness. She shares the interviews in series and adds pictures which can be found on   https://www.facebook.com/peoplenexttoyou/

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The People Next To You Project