Father of local homeless man responds to article with heartfelt letter

For my April 17 “From the Margins” column for the Portland Daily Sun I wrote a piece about a local homeless activist named Matt Coffey.


Photo credit- Seth Koenig, BDN.

Coffey, who has been involved in many social and political issues around Portland for several years, has started his own newspaper, “Hobo News”, which is comprised entirely of stories written by homeless individuals.

The article got a great response, validated more than anything by a powerful email that I received over the weekend from George Coffey, Matt’s father.

I admire the senior Coffey for his willingness to accept his son’s lifestyle and his dedication to supporting and loving him no matter what.

I’m very grateful that he took the time to email me with his heartfelt and compassionate thoughts.

Here’s what he had to say:

Good evening Mr Shorr,

I read your “From The Margins” article earlier this evening. I am finally calm enough and see clearly enough to share my thoughts with you.

First, let me tell you that I have a built-in prejudice regarding Matt Coffey and his position in life. You see, I am his father. His mother, brother, sisters and I live in Massachusetts and do not get to see him as much as we would like. I read about him occasionally and get phone calls on a random basis.

I appreciate your sentiments and observations about Matt. A lot of people look thru homeless people like Matt and never see the person they are. Thank you for not being like those folks. I was one of those folks once, but have Matt to thank for a change in my beliefs and outlook regarding “the homeless”.

Matt has been on his own for about 14 years and, for the most part, happy with his life. I had a very difficult time accepting that. Matt is different than most people; even different than most homeless folks.

He wants to be part of society and contribute. But, he wants to do it in his own way … so that he can be true to himself.

Matt is a kind soul and has never hurt another person. When people are unkind or discourteous to him, he says that is their loss.

I love and miss my son every day.

Thank you for your kind words and observations about him.


George Coffey
Proud Dad

Chris Shorr

About Chris Shorr

Chris is a sixth generation Portlander who loves all things Maine. He has worked with mentally ill and marginalized adults at a Portland non-profit, on a lobster boat in Casco Bay, at several high-end Portland restaurants, and at a local meat packing plant. He also ran for Portland City Council in 2013, wrote a weekly column in the now defunct Portland Daily Sun, and currently writes a weekly column in The Portland Phoenix.