I don’t live in Boston, though obviously like everyone else in the area I’m affected by decisions made by the mayor and city council. I won’t be taking a side in the mayoral race; but the preliminary election is nigh upon us, September 26.
The bridge to Boston’s Long Island was closed on October 8, 2014. The island was the site of a major homeless shelter. The bridge has been demolished and there’s no going back. The Pine Street Inn, which ran the shelter’s programs, says that those services have been replaced on the mainland. As far as it goes, that’s good and probably an improvement. The city even intends to end chronic homelessness by next year.
The actions by the city in the last three years have become something of a political football this election season. Tito Jackson criticized the administration for losing 40 beds for Project SOAR and Safe Harbor (recovery and HIV care, respectively) and when the federal HUD has taken away support for transitional housing; and certain of the homeless men themselves wrote the Walsh administration an open letter saying they haven’t gotten the support they need. On the other hand, even while regretting the loss of federal funding, city officials and Councilor Anissa Essaibi-George (eg.) seem to actually agree that a move to permanent housing is necessary. The women’s drug treatment facility on Long Island found a (very beautiful!) new home in Roxbury.
These are folks with multiple needs: Health challenges of all sorts, including mental and substance; some are immigrants, doubtless of varying legal status. They need a lot of help: Food, shelter, medical, mental, financial, employment, legal. They are, and will continue to be under constant and savage financial, legal, and medical assault from the Trump administration and the Republican congress, which will try to cut everything from food stamps to Medicaid to housing to legal aid, all the while trying to deport those undocumented among them as well.
I started writing this as “Long Island closed three years ago and what has happened since then??” That’s a line preferred by certain of Walsh’s critics. As I researched it, the story is a lot more complex than that — and puts the Walsh administration in a better light, frankly.
But I can’t blame people like Jackson or the Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee for getting their digs in while they can — or asking for more money for housing vouchers. That’s accountability, and it’s what elections are for. More than flashy, gimmicky circuses like GE, the Olympics, Grand Prix, a new Amazon HQ, or the latest tech/med/education expansion, our concern ought to begin with those who for whatever reason have come on the hardest of times. I hope Boston voters will have that in the front of their minds as they vote.