Three outgunned Boston City officials had little choice but to listen — quite sheepish, maybe a bit stunned — as easily 150 very vocal Roxbury residents made it angrily clear they were having none of what the City was proposing: that the former Radius Hospital, now closed, be used as the replacement for the now shut down Long Island shelter and detox.
The timing of last night’s “Community Meeting” at the William Munroe Trotter School on Humboldt Avenue could not have been worse for a proposal controversial in the best of times. In light of events at Ferguson, Missouri and the choke-hold killing of Eric Garner in New York City, many people of color aren’t really trustful of bureaucrats from downtown or their proposals. Almost everyone in the Trotter auditorium had anger going on; most of the speakers voiced it. No, the voices said, we are not going for it, we are NOT having 250 to 500 homeless people sheltered permanently in our neighborhood !
Anger was especially directed at the way in which almost everybody in Roxbury’s Townsend Street neighborhood found out about the Radius Hospital plan : via a meeting flier distributed only yesterday morning, which flier said nothing about the actual proposal : only that “uses of the former Radius Hospital will be discussed.”
Disingenuousnesss was already compromisedm however, because word had gotten arounbd (a lot of it thanks to neighborhood activist Jed Hresko, who posted on facebook a photo of City officials visiting the Radius Hospital the very morning after last week’s South End meeting, at which homeless people evicted from Long Island shelter without notice made desperate appeals to the same City officials seen in Hresko’s photograph. Thus many in the Townsend Street area already knew. They were NOT happy.
^ two Senators two: Sonia Chang-Diaz and Dianne Wilkerson
State Representative Gloria Fox, as broad-shouldered a presence as Roxbury has, made her anger felt as well as heard. So did at least two dozen residents. State senator Sonia Chang-Diaz tried to assure the meeting attendees at the “process’ was “just beginning” ; the residents didn’t want it even to begin. “we’re DONE with that,” said one well-spoken opponent. Also in the room were Councillors Tito Jackson and Ayanna Pressley — Jackson spoke last, and made a sensible counter-proposal, that radius be developed as residences; Pressley did not speak — and so was former state senator Dianne Wilkerson, whose vocal presence may well mark her return to local politics. Certainly the residents present cheered her being there and applauded her soft-spoken words.
Many points were driven home, again and again : that Roxbury is a neighborhood just beginning on its way up, and to impact its upward momentum with hundreds of homeless people, many of them active addicts, makes no sense; that putting so many active addicts on streets in which children pass and repass to and from school puts the children at risk; that it is a terrible imposition for resident to have to confront active addicts and open liquor on their street as they come home from work.
This being Roxbury, and people of color well underastanding the plight of society’s outcasts, many speakers made clear that they solidly support the City establishing a permanent shwlter for homeless people and strong addiction treatment protocols for them as well. Just not on Townsend Street, for the reasons given.
As one speaker, who expressed to the City officials “I love you guys, you know that I know you both personally” eloquently put it : “guys, you’ve heard the voice of my community.”
Indeed they had. it was decided that a task force should be created, to plan a permanent homeless shelter and addiction treatment center, to replace that on Long Island, a program to serve all of Boston and to be located somewhere ; just not in Roxbury.
—- Mike Freedberg / Roxbury Here