Submitted by Charles Connell, a 2009 graduate of Bedford High School
After reading the article “Residents Take Housing Concerns to Planning Board,” I am very disappointed in my home town. Of the many concerns raised by Bedford residents, not a single one displayed any sympathy for the people who were unlucky enough to find themselves in temporary housing. This elitism and lack of empathy is something we hear about happening in wealthy communities elsewhere in America, and sadly it is happening here in Bedford as well. The people living in the Bedford Plaza Hotel are not problems, they are human beings.
Residents “asked why Bedford has become the site for housing as many as 100 families and how that could be prevented in the future.”
Bedford should not be upset that it is a safe haven for society’s less fortunate. We should be proud to provide a nice community for people to live in, who might otherwise be forced to live in a less desirable location. According to the article, someone said, “Bedford is an American dream town, and I don’t want it to change.” This stood out as a particularly ignorant and bigoted comment. It is almost explicitly saying that anyone who isn’t already affluent should not be allowed into affluent communities. It also demonstrates a very perverted idea of the American Dream — apparently it now means that poor people should stay poor. The real problem here is poverty. We can keep it out of our town if we like, but that will not make it end for those who have to endure it. The truly upsetting news is not that greater numbers of low income people have found their way into our town, it is that there are ever greater numbers of poor people.
The program that is causing all of this controversy is very important.
It provides basic housing for families with children in school, at no cost to the town. For some children, it provides transportation to ensure that they have continuity in their educations, by allowing them to continue attending the schools they are familiar with. Bedford must pay for these students’ transportation initially, and it is unclear exactly how much of the cost will be reimbursed by the state. This should not be a problem for a town where every high-schooler is given an iPad. Education is how a society can break the cycle of poverty. If these children are to have a chance at a better life, they need to be supported, and their parents need to be supported. For the children attending the Bedford school system, I hope that the schools and their classmates welcome them and give them a good education. For their parents, I hope that Bedford might be the place where things get a little better for them.
At the planning board meeting, residents also complained about Bedford’s stock of affordable housing. Contrary to some residents’ suggestions, Bedford is not “carrying a heavier burden for affordable housing than surrounding towns.” It is not a burden to have a slightly higher percentage of low-rent apartments in our town than required by law. If anything, this should be a small point of pride. Despite the very high real estate prices in Bedford, there is still a chance that a family without an upper-middle class income could live here. Bedford is so expensive that many of the teachers in Bedford’s public schools do not make enough money to buy a house here. We should be asking how we can further increase the amount of affordable housing in the town, so that families forced to live in hotels could have proper homes. I’m calling on the town of Bedford to encourage more affordable housing so that some of the homeless students entering the Bedford school system this year could have a real home here within a few years.