Cheryl McAlister Gardner lives not far from the encampment at 150 Main St. in Cambridge.
The site has been a contentious subject among residents over the past year, but ever since it popped up behind the social services building McAlister Gardner has felt compelled to help those that are living there.
Not wanting to just hand over money, she's been preparing food and delivering it every other Tuesday. Just this week she could be seen handing out 59 sandwiches, potato soup, cookies and water.
“We’ve been doing this for quite a few months,” McAlister Gardner said.
“Before this I’ve gone down to The Bridges and delivered blankets.”
A recent post she shared in one of the Cambridge Facebook groups of the sandwiches piled high on her kitchen counter has garnered quite a bit of attention. Over 550 people have reacted to the post and 184 have left comments, but not all of them are positive.
Some have called her an enabler and accused her of bragging about the help she’s offering, but none of that bothers her.
What those posters may not know is that being supportive and helpful is something that's in her nature, McAlister Gardner says. Along with her sandwich making endeavour and donations to The Bridges, she’s spent time in Rwanda building houses in underserved villages.
“This is just me,” she said.
“I didn't react to any of the negative comments because I don’t have to waste my time. I loved the comments that were positive.”
If nothing else, McAlister Gardner wants the community to be more understanding of those living on the streets and in tents.
“These are people and we don’t know their circumstances,” she said.
“I can't imagine what it's like living in a tent in this weather. A lot of them are down and out. We pray for a few of the people because they ask for prayer. The post was put out there so maybe more people would care and go out to help.”
She understands that not everyone may be comfortable doing so but says every time she goes, she's met with appreciation. It's what keeps her going and makes her effort worthwhile.
“We've never had a bad experience with any of the people there, they're all very thankful,” she said.
“I shed some tears, it’s difficult to see some of them living like that. Anything I can do to help I will.”