Book 'Rough Sleepers' Centers Around Doctor's Work With Boston's Homeless

Photo: Carl Stevens / WBZ NewsRadio

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — A Harvard-educated doctor is the subject of a new book that delves into his life's work in the shadows and streets of Boston to bring healthcare to the city's homeless populations.

WBZ's Carl Stevens caught up with "Rough Sleepers" Author Tracy Kidder and the man at the center of the book Dr. Jim O'Connell, who helped start Boston Healthcare for the Homeless back in 1985. Since then, the doctor has worked for decades to show compassion to those less fortunate.

"Once I got to understand a little bit of what was going on it seemed like the best story I could possibly imagine. I was fascinated by the relationship I saw immediately between this Harvard-educated doctor and people on the street," Kidder said.

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With homelessness being an ongoing concern for cities across the country, O'Connell was asked if the persistent problem ever frustrated him or made him discouraged.

"More frustrated than discouraged, if you are really outraged by the problem of homelessness and want to fix it— then you burn out in a hurry. We would love to change society, we don't have the wherewithal to do that, but we can take care of people. They're our neighbors, they're the people we should be taking care of. I think most of us that stick with it find it in caring for these folks, even if we can't cure the basic problem— that's kind of what we've been called to do, and what we get our joy in despite the absolute tragedy of homelessness," Dr. O'Connell said.

"Rough Sleepers" is described to be a five-years-in-the-making novel as Kidder followed Dr. O'Connell and his colleagues for that time to witness them serve thousands of homeless patients. "Rough Sleepers" is available for purchase at literature retailers.

WBZ's Carl Stevens (@carlwbz) reports.

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