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Christmas Miracle for Homeless in Keene New Hampshire

‘Tis the season when corporations use charitable donations as an excuse for self-serving front page “grip n’ grins” in the local newspaper. Around Christmas my newspaper is bursting with photos of business owners handing over checks to local charities. If giving is its own reward, why is the public forced to pat these do-gooders on the back, page after page after page?

As for the rest of us — this writer included — Christmas is the season when we cleanse ourselves of our guilt for all we haven’t done to help the needy during the rest of the year. A few bucks dropped in a Salavation Army kettle usually does it for me.

Then there are the true miracle workers. People who aren’t looking for a pat on the back, a clean conscience, or good PR in the local press.

Such a person is Tim Robertson, a resident of Keene, New Hampshire, who is letting six homeless men live in a make-shift shack on his property.

About two months ago, the six men — mostly unemployed construction workers — built a shelter to provide protection from the harsh New Hampshire winter.  The 20-by-20 structure is made of plywood and insulated, and has hand-crank windows. It is wrapped in a black plastic.

According to the Union Leader

The building’s front door leads into a sort of mudroom, with another door into the main living area. There the men have set up six mattresses, discarded but still good, from a nearby mattress store. They have two wood stoves, a grill which doubles as a hot plate, a television, a DVD player, even a cat named Dylan. The roof is made of tin, and the structure is tied to trees and held up from the inside with large tree limbs and wood.

Town bureaucrats called Robertson about the shelter.

“I’ve never told them they could live there and I’ve never told them they couldn’t,” he said. “I knew they were there, but I basically just ignored it.” Robertson said he did not tell the city to have the men removed and really has no problem with the men being there.

Eventually the town sent someone out to inspect the shack. The main issue is that it was built without a permit. The residents have since fixed most of the other violations.

One of the residents, Todd Maliska, 48, said that most of the furnishings have been donated.  The residents have even made arrangements for trash removal. They bag it up and give it to a man who disposes of it for them. They also have cleaned up some of the abandoned camp sites left in the area by homeless who lived there before.

The town of Keene has not yet decided what to do. For a tightwad place like New Hampshire, the reaction from local residents has been surprisingly generous. Some commented to the Union Leader that the town should leave the men alone.

One writer said: “The last time I checked, this was the United States of America. Home of the free and the brave. As long as the land owner doesn’t mind these men living there (which he stated he does not) then let them be. Let’s stop this rediculous nonsense about code violations. These men have nowhere else to go.”

“The city can do whatever they want,” said one of the homeless residents.  “Unless the man who owns the land wants to get us out, we’re not leaving.”

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