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Trevor's Place : THE STORY OF THE BOY WHO BRINGS HOPE TO THE HOMELESS : Trevor's Place THE STORY OF THE BOY WHO BRINGS HOPE TO THE HOMELESS by Frank and Janet Ferrell with Edward Wakin; (Harper & Row: $12.95; 160 pp., illustrated)

October 06, 1985|Cheryl Ginzton | Ginzton teaches literature and creative writing at Flintridge Preparatory School. and

"Trevor's Place" narrates the crusade of one American family that decided "to make a dream of housing the homeless come true." After viewing television coverage of people struggling to survive in Philadelphia slums just 2 1/2 weeks before Christmas in 1983, 11-year-old Trevor Ferrell convinced his family that they should visit and help these people. The offerings that the family made the first night, with Trevor handing a blanket and a pillow to a stranger, were the beginning of a long campaign that lead to the founding of Trevor's Place, Home for the Homeless, and Trevor's own salutation from President Reagain in 1985.

The Ferrells' story is one of concern for humanity in a world too busy to give adequate concern to salvaging broken lives that can be forgotten in the shadows of dark streets.

Why did the Ferrells care? The idealism of a boy's insistence on fighting injustice in turn sparked those around him who needed a purpose in their lives. As Morris, a therapist for a drug-rehabilitation center near Trevor's Place, states about his involvement in Trevor's campaign, "By helping the street people, I can feel that my life is really worth something."

Some oversimplification of issues flaws the telling of the Ferrells' true story. An exploration of causes for substandard street life emerges only superficially. That many of these people are "chronically mentally ill" seems to be an obvious factor that many readers already might have identified.

Unfortunately, too, the Ferrells' biographical account has the noticeable mark of novice writing, a frequent straining for effect that falls short. Thus, to express the value to be found in the views of street people, the Ferrells write that stripped of everything but the right to breathe and laugh, they spoke of the elemental side of life--"the important things."

But clarification about those things fails to follow.

Despite the shortcomings of the Ferrells' narrative, a profound issue is raised: What does it mean to be home? Frank Ferrell seems to have found his permanent home, a place to reside within himself that comes from integrity and self-expression. For Frank Ferrell, this is evident in repeated references to sharing experiences with son Trevor, and the reader is challenged to rediscover the source of his own true residence in the deepest sense that the word home can have for each of us.

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