By Seth Daniel
A special committee has been formed within the Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA) to compassionately address the well-publicized effects that several Methadone clinics, homeless shelters and vagrants are having on the neighborhood.
The new Safety Committee is led by Sahar Zaheer, Bijan Cronin and Andrew Brand and they are collecting short-term solutions, long-term solutions and other ideas primarily related to the Methadone clinics. They said they are preparing to submit those concerns to Councilor Frank Baker, and are working to have a very professional presentation.
On Tuesday night, the Committee gave a formal presentation to WSANA to identify all of the work they have done since forming at the June meeting.
“My history with this is I asked a man in front of my East Springfield home to stop going through the trash and he threw a glass bottle at me and I am pregnant and didn’t appreciate it,” said Zaheer. “I called D-4 and no one came. I didn’t think it was acceptable. There is a vulnerable population going through the neighborhood and they are not treated with dignity. They are bussed in and bussed out and don’t even have bathrooms. They are the daytime homeless and have nowhere to go so they’re in the neighborhoods. The newest thing is they don’t have water in this heat so they are passing out on the street all through the neighborhood. We are all feeling this and it is frustrating…It’s great to vent and to get together and complain, but we have to now move forward with solutions. There is so much frustration for what we have to live with and we need to focus that in a positive direction.”
Sheila Dillon of the City’s Department of Neighborhood Development said City Hall is well aware of everything that’s going on with the homeless and the Methadone Clinics and the drug use in the Worcester Square area. She said they are working hard on the problem and may even have something to point to in the coming weeks.
“I do want to be very clear that the mayor is very aware of this situation and working with us and putting resources there and is very close to having something to address the situation,” she said. “He’s been very aware of what’s going on with the situation regarding Methadone Clinics. That’s a complicated situation because it’s not all homeless…We will get there. I think with the closing of Long Island…the mayor saw there was an opportunity to provide services for the homeless. While nothing happens overnight, we’re on our way to doing this.”
In Worcester Square, some in the Association felt that recent articles in the Boston Globe about the ‘Methadone Mile’ have focused primarily on the homeless and addicts and not on neighbors. Meanwhile, a letter penned to the Newmarket Business Association by the Office of Recovery Services was found by many in WSANA to be a little “tone deaf,” celebrating the fact that all of these social services bringing problems to the neighborhood were located in one small area – just what neighbors have been routinely protesting for years.
“If the City thinks their doing a fine job and are tone deaf, maybe we need to make them less tone deaf with pictures and videos and more information and evidence,” said Brand.
That’s precisely what the group has been doing in compiling a detailed document with information and goals to present to the City and the state.
One of the most troubling aspects of the problem is the Methadone Clinics, and one in particular. That clinic is operated by Acadia Health Systems of Tennessee and is called the Boston Community Treatment Center located at 99 Topeka St. The company is a for-profit company that operates similar clinics in Fall River, Lynn, Lowell, and seven other locations in Massachusetts.
However Zaheer noted that she has discovered the company is bussing in patients from outside of Boston into the neighborhood. Often, the patients have to take a morning dose and an evening dose, so in between they are becoming the daytime homeless – wandering the streets without access to water or bathrooms.
“In the long-term, we need to have a daily list of the numbers who are bussed in from outside the City of Boston,” she said. “We need to provide services for our residents. Why are we providing services to people from other communities and using our tax dollars to address their problems? I’ve been told there isn’t enough room in these other committees, but by treating them in our community, they will be more likely to cause problems or stay all day because they aren’t close to their homes. I can’t understand this story that there isn’t enough room in other communities. It doesn’t add up.”
This revelation was news to many in WSANA, including a veteran of the Methadone Mile, WSANA President George Stergios.
“We have all of these great relationships with the social services in the area,” he said. “The piece we’re missing is the Methadone side. These other social services like the homeless shelters, the hospital and others like to talk to us. They want to know what we think. The Methadone is a complete mystery. We don’t know if there are two or three and if they’re bussing people…I had never heard that. Right now, they are operating in a way that they do whatever they want to do.”
Some immediate suggestions by the Committee included:
•having the City provide a quarterly report to WSANA of the homeless population and the progress to get them out of chronic situations.
•Regularly clean up Melnea Cass Boulevard through the City and Boston Medical Center resources.
•Make all Methadone facilities participate in neighborhood meetings at least on a quarterly basis. Part of that would be mandating a quarterly report for WSANA on where patients are coming from and how many are being served.
•have Clinics provide 24/7 access to bathrooms, water and places to wait in between doses for their patients. Waiting areas are also suggested to have programming.
•make clinics have private security in a 500 foot radius of their operation and full video monitoring.
•require clinics to contribute to a fund to support police and neighborhood services for every person brought in from outside of Boston every day.