When city workers dismantled tents on the streets around the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard last December, city officials and city leaders stressed the importance of a regional approach that would distribute the programs drug treatment and transitional housing from the area to neighborhoods across the city and throughout the region.
But nearly 10 months later, the regional approach is looking more and more like Roxbury. The neighborhood, which already has a high concentration of addiction treatment programs and supportive housing for people struggling with addiction, is poised to receive many more.
A team of nonprofit service providers and community development corporations has partnered with Boston Medical Center with a plan to build 400 transitional housing units for homeless and drug-addicted people on the hospital site Shattuck to Franklin Park, where the city has already established 30 temporary supportive housing shelters.
The state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) has yet to release the plan, which came in response to a request for proposals issued by the agency in July. But a letter of support circulated by one of the promoters, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, says the number of units is 400 and the group plans to “provide a full range of services and supports that address the ‘impact of substance abuse and public health on public health’. homelessness.
In addition to JPNDC and Boston Medical Center, other team members include The Community Builders, Pine Street Inn, Bay Cove Human Services, Victory Programs Inc, Health Care Resource Centers, and Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program.
The plan has drawn ire among residents of surrounding communities who say they were not included in DCAMM’s RFP planning process.
“They didn’t ask residents of a neighborhood where they put a very high need population,” said Fatema Ali Salaam, chairwoman of the Greater Mattapan Neighborhood Council (GMNC). “It fell on us.”
A DCAMM spokesperson would not share a copy or answer questions about the development plan.
“The proposal is currently being evaluated,” she wrote in an email to Banner.
A Roxbury-centric solution?
Since the city dismantled tents and shelters in the Mass and Cass area, city officials have located temporary accommodations at the Roundhouse Hotel and 112 Southampton Street in Roxbury, the Willows at Woods shelter in the South End , the Envision Hotel in the Mission Hill area of Roxbury and the existing Shattuck building.
A city spokesperson said Mayor Michelle Wu’s administration is seeking to develop a total of 1,000 supportive housing units across the city for people with addictions and homelessness. But city officials have yet to identify a single site outside of Roxbury, other than Willow at Woods, which is on the south side of the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Albany Street.
“We don’t want to bear the burden of housing people and providing services in Roxbury,” said District 7 Councilwoman Tania Fernandes Anderson, whose district includes Roxbury and parts of the South End and Fenway.
Fernandes Anderson, who has worked with people with addictions, said concentrating programs for people with addictions in the same area doesn’t work.
“Research shows it’s not even effective when it’s all concentrated in one area,” she said. “I don’t know what their logic is in installing everything here.”
Within a quarter-mile radius of Fernandes Anderson’s Humboldt Avenue home are seven sober houses and shelters for people with addictions and homelessness. The neighborhood is said to have the highest concentration of sober houses in the city, although there isn’t a single government agency that tracks where these sites are in Boston.
While Franklin Park is within the Greater Mattapan Neighborhood Council’s BRA designated catchment area and is claimed by the Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Council, neither agency was invited to the DCAMM process for the development of the application for proposals for the Shattuck.
Garrison Trotter President Louis Elisa, who attended several meetings after learning of DCAMM’s plans, said the RFP called for 75 to 100 units, not the 400 envisioned in the groups plan.
Prior to DCAMM releasing the RFP, the redevelopment requirements, which included supportive housing and addictions treatment services, were made public. Two city councilors – at-Large councilor Michael Flaherty and Frank Baker, whose district adjoins the Mass and Cass area – have lent their support. Michelle Wu, who at the time was general counsel, asked DCAM to work with the MBTA to locate services in nearby Arborway Court instead of Franklin Park.
State Rep. Russell Holmes, who hasn’t seen the groups’ proposal, said adding 400 units would overwhelm the surrounding community.
“I don’t believe we should put 400 supportive housing units in one community,” said state Rep. Russell Holmes, whose district adjoins Franklin Park. “Concentrating so much supportive housing in one community is not a good idea.
Facts from the field
Already, residents of the communities surrounding the Shattuck site say they have noticed a sharp increase in the number of discarded needles in the area as well as people injecting drugs in public and overdoses.
“It’s a pretty drastic difference in the number of needles, people using drugs, drug dealing,” said Jamaica Plain resident Rory Coffey, who maintained a website document discarded needles. “Over the last month and a half, there has been a big increase.”
Coffey says there were two tents pitched in open spaces in the park as well as makeshift shelters and encampments in the woods.
While Shattuck’s 30 temporary structures target people in various stages of recovery, programs running outside the building include harm reduction strategies targeting active users. Coffey wonders if the high concentration of active users could undermine ongoing recovery work on the site.
“I don’t know how you recover when there are so many people who are obviously not recovering here,” he said.