“Street Rounds” with Dr. Jim O’Connell

Of these eleven

Ten homeless men in “Mousey Park”  in 2000. Only one of these men is still alive today.

We’re on a short Open Source field trip to someplace between Boston Noir and Boston the medical mecca.  We’re walking from the Massachusetts General Hospital on a crooked path to South Station, meeting people that our eyes and yours might normally never see.  These are Friday morning “outdoor rounds” with Doctor Jim O’Connell of Boston Health Care for the Homeless, whose patients are mostly alcoholic men with other mental and bodily afflictions, very sick people who often say they prefer the street to shelter living.  Jim O’Connell has been at this work for 30 years.  He made a habit early on of washing the feet of his patients – as a gesture of his servant-hood – but also as a sort of diagnostic device: what paths have his patients been on?  When you’re looking for models of the doctor – patient relationship, it’s a pleasure to watch an esteemed Boston doc giving every one of his needy patients the same claim on his time and skill, treating, touching, and comforting people that the rest of us can manage not to see at all.  


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  • Myrtle

    Chris, thanks for bringing to us, Dr. O’Connell’s inspirational contribution to society’s forgotten population. It gives me much hope this dreary Sunday afternoon.

  • Bill Ritchotte

    Dr. O’Connell and Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program are an incredible resource for Boston’s homeless population. I’m running the Boston Marathon to raise money for them and if you would like to help please ornate here:


  • Kate McShane

    Heartbreaking. I don’t live in Boston now, but I remember going on my break to Whole Foods for coffee in 2006, just months after being homeless. I remember all the guys along Cambridge Street who begged for money near the library. I didn’t have much, but I tried to give them as much as I could, and I spoke with some of them. I’ve known a lot of homeless people in Boston, Cambridge, and downtown Philadelphia. I guess the average person is afraid to talk to them. That’s really the kindest observation I can come up with, because when you are lucky to be in conversation with a homeless person and you’re able to listen, you see the most vulnerable people and often the kindest. If you can do what Jim O’Connell does, even just limited to having a conversation and doing what you can to help. what you are contending with is the terrible pain you feel, terrible helplessness. Besides money and conversation, you’re really limited. For a long time, I’ve had this dream of winning the lottery and being able to get help for the poor people who are never helped, people who are looked on with contempt by the sick politicians in our government.