WGBH Special Report: Recognizing Bruce

By Phillip Martin

Bruce Stuart. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)

An estimated 15,482 homeless people eke out an often-solitary existence on town and city streets across Massachusetts.  About 20 percent of them are veterans. One of them is a former army soldier named Bruce Stuart.

Three years ago,WGBH's Phillip Martin stopped into a cafe in Cambridge and struck up a conversation with a man sitting alone on a bench. It was Bruce, and he was making drawings of the world around him -- or at least the world as he saw it.   That conversation led to more like it, and to the revelation of a complex human story.

 Bruce's story is not only about homelessness.  It is also about a man who has lived a life of both privilege and deprivation.  It is a story about unheralded artistry. And it is about the acknowledgement of individuals who have grown accustomed to being invisible and unknown.   

Part One: A Man Without A Home

We meet Bruce Stuart, a 63-year-old homeless man who lives in and around Harvard Square. Earning $5 by asking for it on the street wasn't always the way Bruce lived, and it's not the way Bruce defines himself. He's an artist, too.

Part Two: Enduring Street Life Through Art

Bruce Stuart has survived on the streets of Cambridge for the past ten years. He says he could not have done it without the help of strangers, or without his art, which gets him through the day. He has also found help and friendship in a Harvard librarian who gave Bruce a few dollars whenever he saw him -- and talked with him about music, another one of his passions.

Part Three: A Home For Bruce And His Art

After ten years of homelessness, Bruce Stuart has a show in a Cambridge art gallery, but he's not sure he wants to be recognized. His subsequent disappearance worried friends and locals who were used to seeing him around -- until they found him in a home of his own.

Series credits: 

WGBH's Senior Reporter Phillip Martin reported and wrote this series. Jay Allison was the editor. WGBH's Jane Pipik, Alan Mattes and Antonio Oliart were the engineers. WGBH's Jess Bidgood edited and produced the series for the Web.

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