That reassuring line appears in a Globe op-ed by Lawrence Harmon that ran a few days ago. In Harmon’s view, the sudden closure of the Long Island shelter, at which hundreds of homeless people and recovering drug addicts found refuge and treatment, was actually a good thing, because it created “an opportunity to integrate Long Island into the national recreation area without giving short shrift to the homeless.” Long Island, one of the Boston Harbor islands, has long been closed to the general public. And that’s a darn shame, says Harmon. Wouldn’t it be great, Harmon asks, if Long Island were “to be integrated fully into the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area”?
The National Park Service, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, the US Coast Guard, and the nonprofit Boston Harbor Island Alliance are among the dozen or so managing partners responsible for providing better access to the historic sites, scenic walking trails, and beaches in the 34-island recreation area. And Long Island is rich in such amenities.
But wait, I hear you cry. A lot of people without other options found shelter on Long Island before the bridge was shut down. Where will they go if the shelter never reopens? A raucous public meeting last week made pretty clear that the homeless, and those who advocate for them, were not happy about the abrupt closure, and even less so about the apparently inadequate measures that have been put in place since then.
No worries, Harmon reassures us. ”No one is proposing to abandon the homeless.” After all, he says,
[t]he Walsh administration has offered a thoughtful plan to build a large, temporary shelter along the Southeast Expressway at the edge of the South End. The location has several advantages, including proximity to social services. But why stop at building a temporary shelter from prefabricated materials? The construction of a permanent shelter capable of accommodating 400 to 500 homeless people on the site would offer a long-term solution without the need to return to Long Island.
Hmmm … that site description rings a bell … didn’t I just see something …? Oh yeah. Today’s Globe:
Planning is quietly underway for construction of a soccer stadium in Boston, one that would bring the resurgent New England Revolution closer to their urban fan base, according to people familiar with the Kraft family’s search for a site.
Among the sites under consideration is a strip of city-owned land off Interstate 93 on Frontage Road, where Boston has a large yard for towed cars and public works. The South Boston property offers easy access from major highways and is near the MBTA’s Red Line as well as rail lines at nearby South Station.
Numerous sources said the Kraft family has been meeting with state and city officials to discuss the stadium and possible locations over the past several months, with the team focusing on Frontage Road….
The Frontage Road location is adjacent to an industrial area that the group organizing Boston’s efforts to host the 2024 Summer Olympics had identified as a potential location for the main Olympics stadium. Kraft is also a member of the Olympics group….
The city yard is also a candidate for a new homeless shelter to replace a facility on Long Island that was abruptly shuttered last month after the harbor bridge was condemned.
Yeah. A bunch of homeless people and recovering drug addicts vs. Bob Kraft and the Boston 2024 Olympics crowd. Who do you think is going to win that one?
I really don’t know whether having major shelter and rehab facilities on a remote, difficult-to-access island in Boston Harbor is a good idea; I will leave it to others with far more knowledge and experience in such matters to sort that out. What I am pretty sure of is that having such facilities available somewhere is better than having them available nowhere.
If it’s really true, as many have said, that we should judge societies on how they treat their most vulnerable members, then the resolution of this crisis is a moral test of Mayor Walsh’s new administration, as well as Boston as a whole. Let’s try to get it right.