BY DEEANNA ROLLINS
“It’s nice to see people starting to feel,” said Susan Muscutt, Paul Tavares’ girlfriend, who runs the Facebook page for the 90 Days & Nights in the Cold campaign that Tavares started on Feb. 6.
One entire month has gone by and Tavares is still going strong. He has slept in a tent for 28 nights now in the wind, rain and snow all by himself, and has 62 nights to go.
Tavares, who was briefly homeless five years ago, started the campaign as a way to raise awareness and open the community’s eyes to the struggles that the homeless face every single day. He never thought it would become as big as it has.
He also requested monetary donations as well as anything else that could help the homeless, such as clothing, toys and food. In the first week of Tavares’ 90-day journey, the donations came pouring in. A shipping container was given to him to hold donations, and after only three days it was full for the first (of many) times.
The idea of this campaign came to him after he read an article in The Cambridge Times about the increase in people seeking shelter in early December. The Bridges, a homeless shelter in Cambridge, at one point before the holidays housed over 100 people overnight, a number that included seven families with children.
“After I read that article, I had this vision of myself doing what I did five years ago without a choice,” said Tavares, speaking about homelessness. “But this time, I’d be doing it right in the public eye, for everyone to see.”
And he had the perfect place – the Shoppers Drug Mart on Water Street in Cambridge, right across the street from The Bridges – he just had to get permission. One month after his vision, he was finally given the OK to pop his tent, and the next day, Feb. 6, he did just that.
“Before, when I was briefly homeless, I hid from the public. I didn’t want people to see me, this time is different,” he said.
He may have hidden from the public eye, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be seen.
“There’s two categories of people, the people who see it, and the people who don’t want to see it,” he said. “It’s almost worse when people see it and choose not to do anything.”
Ryan Hall, owner of Canadian Hitches, which donated the shipping container, said, “Everybody in the city should be doing something for him and the homeless, there’s no reason not to.”
The amount of support from everyone in the community, from people bringing soup and food to Tavares, to a five-year-old boy bringing jackets for women and men in the shelters, has been overwhelming and heartwarming,” said Muscutt.
“He has this big, beautiful heart,” she said. “All he wants to do is help others.”
And he is endlessly encouraging people to help while continuously opening their eyes day in and day out. He wants people to help fix the cause of homelessness, rather than judge people who are homeless, hungry and hurting.