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Spare Change Guy, long a croaking presence around town, dead at 68

Bubier in 1971 and 2020

Bubier in his 1971 high-school yearbook and in a 2020 photo for the Sex Offender Registry Board.

John Bubier, long familiar to people downtown and elsewhere in the Boston area for his outstretched arms and "Do you have any spaaaare change?" requests, died Jan. 11 at 68.

Bubier graduated Watertown High School in 1971. He was a member of the Gridiron Club and listed his plans for the future as "Business." He worked as a caterer for American Airlines at Logan Airport and as a laborer for the Boston Housing Authority, he told MassLive.com in a 2014 interview. After he was laid off from the BHA, he never worked a steady job again, instead turning to panhandling and SSI for money.

While most people regarded him mainly as a croaking background to their walks through Downtown Crossing, he had a darker side: He was convicted in 2011 and 2019 on charges of indecent assault and battery. He was arrested several times for failing to register as a sex offender - and for his predilection for trying to get onto the T without paying.

Donations in his memory can be made to the St. Francis House homeless shelter.

H/t Rich.

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Comments

RIP, John.

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Voting closed 29

Remember when Fox 25 had that studio at the corner of Beacon and Park and now-Globe columnist Kimberly Atkins Stohr used to do segments there when she was with The Herald? And then Spare Change Guy photo-bombed her?

UHub remembers: https://www.universalhub.com/2019/spare-change-guy-makes-news

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Voting closed 31

We shouldn't criminalize people who can't afford public transit, using public transit.

"Jump through endless hoops to get a TAP card, and only if you have disabled status which is literally years of working the courts with attorneys who take a cut of your disabled payments" doesn't count.

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You don't have to have disabled status from the courts to get a tap card. It's very easy, you should actually look at the requirements

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Hell even I had a TAP Card at one point years ago. Its not hard. And its alot easier to get now with the charlie card store. I had to get one at the old weird office in Backbay Station thats now Tasty Burger.

At the time qualifying people just had to check off only one of these.

1) low income
2) meet disability requirements / are disabled
3) Are blind
4) Over 65
5) Collect MassHealth/Medicaid or Medicare
6) Collect EBT, WIC, or "Welfare" (with some applicant restrictions)

He woulda checked off at least two of those boxes.

The hardest part was making the appointment with my dr so he could sign the application. Other than that.. just waiting for the approval letter so I could go get the card at Backbay.

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I have mailed multiple applications to the Charlie card store (my dad has Medicare) and I’ve heard nothing back.

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Due to Covid they have been short staffed and have less hours at the downtown crossing store. Also the machine that makes the photo IDs broke down end of Nov - I called them and got a free 30 day card sent out to me but you can pick one up.

It works out better if you go there directly.

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Also the machine that makes the photo IDs broke down end of Nov -

If that’s the excuse in the middle of January, then let’s just drop the pretense and quit pretending that we’re actually a first world country. Because “our agency can’t fulfill its mission because a machine is broken” isn’t a first world kind of thing.

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Did you follow up? They have hard rules about how long you can wait for acceptance letters..

You need to follow up and call. Don't just send applications, call.

Also ya know its a pandemic here, and the T is bleeding employees, I wouldn't be surprised if that might be the delay.

But if you aren't getting anywhere, they have a disabled persons ombudsman you can call to assist. They will light a fire under them to get you the letter.

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I was mainly commenting on why a lot of people give up when applying for social programs. It takes time, nothing happens, and then you have to spend more time trying to figure out whose attention to get to solve it. Not everyone has the capacity to do so.

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Waiting for a letter is alot harder when you're homeless and don't have an address. Or other forms of ID. And any other number of hurdles in his way that we don't know about.

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You're making the assumption he's got nothing.

Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. Stop assuming

I was just listing out my experience with a TAP Card. Not making any assumption at all, just that he would have qualified at least twice with two glaring reasons.

As far as the letter. There's a checkbox for that on the form as are applications from social services in this state. Usually they can either go to the TAP room and pick it up or if they are working with a social worker (which is usually the case if you're applying for this card for the 1st time), they can receive it for you in lieu of an address.

Again not making assumptions here, just stating what I know about the program.

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TAP card - that's your takeaway?

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In the interview someone else linked, he said he had a brain injury at some point. Definitely becomes a catch-22 for people like that in trying to navigate services.

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We shouldn't criminalize people who can't afford public transit, using public transit.

How about criminalizing people who forcibly rape children? Are we OK with that?

“Sex offender” is of course a problematic designation, because it might mean that you got caught urinating on a tree in the park by a cop who didn’t like you, or it might mean you violently raped a child. As with everything else, some degree of nuance is called for. But by all accounts I heard, this guy was the latter rather than the former, dangerous to the innocent.

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Voting closed 44

Are you thinking that registered sex offenders... who are disabled or poor... and who get caught turnstile-jumping... should be penalized more than other fare evaders? I'm really confused what this has to do with the top-level comment.

I mean, obviously rape should be criminal. But last I heard, that has its own set of laws and one of them isn't "even after you've done your time, you can't use public transit" or "you should get punished more harshly for other things, forever".

(Agreed that "sex offender" is a terribly vague term, though.)

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Completely untrue . It’s quite easy to get a TAP card , you can get one by legit any doctor filling out paperwork or for being a drug addict or drunk or just proving you’re over 65 or of low income .

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We shouldn't subject working people who pay their fares, many of whom are low-income, to the problems caused by the homeless who decide to panhandle or sleep on the T.

If someone has a legitimate need to ride the T and can't afford the $2.40, they should get a card through their social service provider. Giving up on fare enforcement isn't the answer.

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Wow. This is another example of promising young man ending up with mental issues at the wrong turn at Albuquerque. May you be judged by God with other sex offenders.

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Appalling summary and dismissal of a mentally ill person’s life. “Homeless” is a euphemism you know. The people who live in the street aren’t suffering from lack of a home. And I have zero interest in looking up this persons sex offender cases to determine if they are in fact the result of an arrest made during a psychotic episode. So sick of all the callous creeps in this town and I don’t mean that guy. Seriously hope y’all don’t end up with head injuries and your obit plays out similarly. Don’t think there’s a safety net for you that would prevent that from happening.

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Voting closed 40

...and, as Gertrude Stein once said, "THAT'S the answer". This man had access to help. I personally witnessed, on several occasions, Mr. Bubier downtown accompanied by what appeared to be a social worker. When he would approach people and go into his "spare change" routine, she would say "we already discussed that you should not do that". Not in a reproachful way, but in a trained way.

So, what do we do when a person is unable (due to mental illness) or unwilling (due to addiction) to accept help? THAT'S the problem with the multitudes of addicted and mentally ill that are teeming the streets and subways of Boston right now. What do you do with someone who cannot or will not accept help? I suppose they could be warehoused in facilities, if there was money for such a thing, just to get them off the streets. Or they can be left on the street. It's about time we face this once and for all. For those who cannot or, most especially, WILL not accept help, there is no answer.

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Guys, He was a sex offender!

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Sex offenders are people too and need donations made in their memories.

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Victims of sexual assault are people too.

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You can be a sex offender for many minor offenses. Don't assume the worst.

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Jesus, what is wrong with us? We can’t agree on the most basic of things.

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is not a minor offense.

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The only thing minor about his sexual offenses were the young girls(plural), he was charged with sexually assaulting by walking up to them and grabbing their crotches. He was also arrested several times for randomly punching women in the face for no reason. Minor? Not at all!

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Magoo ‘members he used to be on VB’s segment. Magoo.

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At about 7 on Saturday Mornings. Either you or Captain Bob was first, then the Superfriends.

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I haven't thought of him in years. +1 to you! Though I would have given you a -1 (if it existed) had you mentioned the highly annoying Willie Whistle.

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I couldn't help but notice that he still has that center curl hair in both photos.

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Because he had a funny voice? He’s not a mascot, but rather a violent, disturbed man.

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More like informing UHub readers who ride the T why he disappeared recently.

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but like it or not, he was a frequent, predictable presence in the lives of many, many residents and visitors of Boston.

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as is the kind of mental illness that puts someone on the streets. And he was a well-known person, so marking his passing soberly is appropriate.

No need to read into this story sentiments that didn't exist.

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He was a frequent flier on the subways and like thousands others rode the rails without paying.
The Transit police years ago issued thousands of citations and arrested dozens of other homeless farebeaters after draconian legislation was passed that also suspended your drivers license for not paying your citation fine.
The result was that the Transit Police were sued for excessive force costing the authority millions of dollars in lawsuits and charges of racial profiling and targeting minorities.
Today the Transit Police no longer arrest for fare jumping and officers refuse to issue citations.T Management has decided to spend billions on new fare machines and hire hundreds of new fare checkers who will be trained to say "Your papers please." Make the T free in honor of the spare change guy may he rest in peace.

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to be the most personally disgusting individual one could imagine.

I suppose people must have tried to give him help at some time, and failed. But that kind of reputation is hardly a legacy to remember of anyone.

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This is what bad cases of schizophrenia look like. He did not have a "shtick" of making himself extra-icky to freak you out. It might not even be about you. Yes, he was a sex offender and (gasp) didn't pay his bus fare. The fact that he was insane does not excuse, but mitigates his blame.

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No one is endorsing his life or lifestyle. The problem is finding a balance between protecting the average citizen from the irrational behaviors of people like Mr. Bubier, and doing what we can to take care of people like him. Mass and Cass is an example of going way beyond tolerance and caring.

"whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me"

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Voting closed 11

When banks own all the vacant houses, and government lets them do whatever they want, they have no incentive to help the indigent - and they don't. Homelessness is not an aspiration in that regard.

Sex offense is resolved by keeping your (expletive) hands to yourself and taking no for an answer, so if you do it anyway, yes, you aspired to be a sex offender.

I never encountered Spare Change Guy, because I've been lucky (unfortunate?) enough to get to age 38 without having to regularly commute into Boston proper for employment, save for a temp gig in 2015-16. I believe that everyone deserves a proper memorial, but with a guy like this, you do it quietly, you do it quickly, and you move on.

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We do not know whether his SORB level is directly related to his mental health. Just as no one can know his life's trajectory had mental illness not threw him off.

What we can ask is how and when are we each other's keeper? Protector, support, guide, mentor. A laissez-faire society is fine for people who don't fall off the edge of the bell curve of self-sufficiency (not that anyone is truly self-sufficient - we all depend on others - even a certain D. Trump). But not everyone fits into the model that we live by.

Did "Spare Change Guy" live a life that anyone deserved? Was it inevitable that he lived on the streets begging for money?

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He obviously had one, the other, or both.

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In my younger days I used to enjoy the street life of odd and crazy people milling around but as I've gotten older I've started to realize they are living testaments to our failure as a society to deal with issues around mental health and poverty.

He is responsible for his crimes and possibly for his situation where asking for spare change in a unique way became his thing but that doesn't leave us off the hook.

I don't want to go back to the days of county assylums but there must be something between putting someone in a facility forever and letting them languish on the street.

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The CEOs of non profits that "work" with the vulnerable make a lot of money. You won 't solve a problem if your income depends on it existing.

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The arguments in favor of UBI and against consumerism grow stronger by the day. This is a particularly vivid one.

I hope the anon who asked me in the Marty not running for governor thread if I was left-wing or right-wing sees this in addition to having seen me take a swipe at Biden. That'll make their head explode.

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which you are certainly entitled to hold.

But I'd like to think that a chief executive that oversaw the end of something like chronic homelessness would be readily sought after by many other organizations that would pay them handsomely.

You'd also have to assume that "fixing" the problem would be permanent and sustainable without any maintenance. I'm not sure that's a good assumption.

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Define "a lot of money"

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He was talking about the CEOs who are supposed to provide care, but make their money on not providing that care.

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Social Worker said

The CEOs of non profits that "work" with the vulnerable make a lot of money. You won 't solve a problem if your income depends on it existing.

Saying "but make their money on not providing that care" is a stretch. Besides, solving those problems is well outside the realm of the non-profits. These problems are systemic and require solutions well beyond what the non-profits do.

And I'm still curious what SW thinks is a lot.

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I remember when grabbing them by the pussy was condemned, not condoned. By many of the clowns in this circus.

Fvck him and you if you're an apologist for this sick freak. One less reason for women to fear public transportation.

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It is easy to believe the world is a better place because one person, a man who lived on the street, a man who lost the majority of his personal agency to mental illness, who committed a sex crime is dead. But what about the vast numbers of sex crimes committed by family members and family "friends." Should we ban families and family friends since they are proven to often be the sources of sexually violent individuals?

Or what about why sex crimes happen in the first place? Are there people born to automatically rape and molest? If so perhaps we need to develop methods to prevent them from ever committing the crime. Or is no one born to commit sex crimes but due to the direction of their life wind up using sex as a way to deal with their own personal horror stories?

An analogy: Are alcoholics born as alcoholics? Or is alcoholism an effect in folks with a propensity to alcoholism - AND - need to use alcohol as a way to cope with shitty lives? The fact that there are many people who are able to step out of the shadow of constant drinking strongly suggests that whether alcoholism is genetic or not, that it is possible to not drink. But these stories depend upon a vast system of support ranging from 12 step meetings to therapists to community support.

Are we so unintelligent that we can not figure out what supports are needed for people who have lost their personal agency and need help recovering that agency? Recovering the ability to choose to not engage in harmful behaviors against either self or others?

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Normally I’m arguing the other side: that being mentally I’ll is not a crime, and that retribution is wrong: that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. But I will make an exception for those who violently abuse minors. To hell with all of them, and I hope the ride there is miserable.

I’m glad he’s gone.

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Where your analogy breaks down:

Although alcoholics frequently hurt others as a side effect of their pathology, injuring others is not a central aspect of alcoholism. Violent sexual predators, on the other hand, harming others is central to who they are.

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