By Seth Daniel
Just one year ago, Mayor Martin Walsh came out with an initiative to address chronic homelessness and to get people on the streets into permanent housing.
There have been victories reported that are significant, City officials said, but the future may not include the trip back to Long Island Shelter.
This week, City officials reported that they’ve had significant victories already on the housing the homeless front and have laid important groundwork for making even more improvements in the coming year. However, those improvements may not include re-building the bridge to Long Island Shelter – which was closed a few years ago. The City is studying if the costs are worth the benefits. That is crucial for the South End, as the closing of Long Island Shelter resulted in the opening of Southampton Shelter – which was only to be temporary.
“Right now, a cost-benefit analysis is underway in order to determine the future of the Long Island bridge,” said Bonnie McGilpin of the Mayor’s Office. “No final decisions have been made yet. However, it is important to look at all of the progress the City has made in housing the homeless since bridge was closed.”
Sheila Dillon of the City’s Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) said the initiative, introduced in June 2015, has seen all of the identified single homeless veterans housed and many single homeless people on track for housing.
“In one year, we have housed all of the chronically homeless veterans,” she said. “All of the veterans chronically homeless in who were in shelters for a long time are now housed. We’ve housed 684 veterans in one year. That’s pretty amazing. That means we have had a drop of homeless veterans by a figure of 44 percent.”
The veterans, she said, were the top priority in a three-tiered approach.
The second part was for individuals (homeless families were not included in the initiative) who were not veterans. That part was much more difficult, she said. They realized over the last year that a lot of coordination needed to be made and groundwork was going to need to be laid.
“We have a lot of services and non-profits who serve the chronically homeless and everybody was working off of a separate list and so now we have one master list of individuals that we are all working off of,” she said. “If you don’t do that, there will be duplication of services…We have housed this year more than 100 chronically homeless individuals who aren’t veterans, with 600 identified.”
She said the work is one of the most exciting initiatives she has worked on while at DND.
“We are committed to getting all of those identified housed,” she said. “It is one of the most exciting transformations I’ve witnessed in many years of service.”
As for Long Island, she said no decisions have been made, but that the “best use for the island is being evaluated.”