by Jennifer Wren
August 10, 2009 issue
For years Peter Resnik , a high-powered Boston lawyer, passed homeless people walking through the park on his way to work. But in 2007 he struck up a casual conversation with one of them, Rob, and now they're the unlikeliest of friends. "As we talked about his life, I could identify with who he was as a person," Peter says. He and Rob (who doesn't want his last name used) had deep discussions about books that Peter brought, such as Water for Elephants and The Kite Runner. After Rob, 50, loaned one of the books to another homeless man last year, an idea was hatched. Peter and outreach worker Ron Tibbetts set up the book club (oasiscoalition.org).
Now every Tuesday, about eight men and women meet at a church for literary talk. During those hours, members gain confidence and build friendships--a welcome break from the harsh realities they face. "It takes my mind off my problems," says Jamie Johnson, 50, who lives in a rooming house. "I'm using my intelligence for something other than watching TV all the time." To Rob, who secured housing in February 2008, "Reading is refreshing to me, [but] the best part is the friendship.