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Letter: A Community’s Moral Obligation

To the Editor:

I was saddened to read about the death of Matthew Harriman, a homeless man in Claremont. The story quoted City Manager Guy Santagate as saying that the city is there to help — if you come to them. A deacon said his church has been attempting to set up some kind of shelter — when you come to them.

The one homeless person interviewed, Alan Graves, said, “There are a few good people out here who don’t want anyone to know they don’t have a home.” I would assume that those good people, despite the harsh conditions, might be reluctant to seek help.

Matthew Harriman had a “home” — a known “camp” within Claremont. There may not have been a roof over his head, but for Matthew Harriman, that was his home. Nothing else was really available to him. And the police knew where to find him.

Perhaps, if he had been in a house, and the police, his neighbors and the church understood that he was on a limited income and was alone and might be low on fuel, someone would have sought him out and checked on his condition. It wasn’t as if no one knew about him or his living arrangements.

When another is in need, we are obliged to help. We shouldn’t have to wait until asked or someone comes to us. If we understand that a life is in jeopardy from circumstances — man-made or natural — beyond a person’s ability to cope, a community has a moral obligation to step in. Which of us does not understand that anyone without shelter the other night was in danger of dying from the cold?

With individuals, towns and states having less income these days to provide for day-to-day necessities, it again falls upon each of us to be vigilant and compassionate. We can’t wait for someone else to give that helping hand.

Santagate said, “We have a good safety net here.” But we shouldn’t wait until someone has to jump. Better to have someone walk up and enclose the Matthew Harrimans of the Upper Valley in a warm blanket of care. He shouldn’t have died at home.

Jon Gilbert Fox

Hanover

Related

In Claremont, Homeless Man Dies in Camp

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Claremont — Police said Tuesday that the bitter cold of the last several days was a likely factor in the death of a homeless man whose body was found in an area off Maple Avenue where he was known to camp. Matthew Harriman, 49, was found in the snow by police officers who searched the area after being notified by …