Robert “Bob” Belanger, the so-called “transient” who was killed last week when he was struck by a dump truck on outer Congress Street, defied the stereotype. Bob, who suffered from mental illness and alcoholism, was a homeless person, evicted from public housing nearly two years ago. But he was an immaculate dresser who was always perfectly groomed.

If you’d just met him, you would think he was a banker or some other professional. He was meticulous about his clothes and hygiene. Bob decided to do something about his drinking, so on July 1, 2016, he came into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. He was sober from that day until his death.

He faithfully attended the Men’s Noon Group at the First Parish Church every weekday and became a vital member of the group. He was a member in good standing. He helped others. He never panhandled or begged. He was a poet, musician and built aquariums. He volunteered for the Red Cross. He gave back.

He was extremely frustrated about being homeless, and eventually started living in a storage unit. Many tried to help; we all failed him, as did the “system.” We can and should do better.

The circumstances of his death are still under investigation. For now, we pray for Bob, his mother and sister in New Hampshire, and the driver of the truck and driver’s family.

There’s a story in AA where a newcomer asks an old-timer, “Is there AA in heaven?” The man replies, “Well, I have good news and bad news – the good news is yes, there is; the bad news is you’re chairing the meeting tonight!” Save a seat for us, Bob. We’ll all see you again soon.

The Men of the Noon Group

Alcoholics Anonymous

Portland


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