By Seth Daniel
In the latest in the neighborhood battle to curb the prevalence of homelessness and addiction in the Worcester Square area, a small interest group within the Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA) has begun trying to use good neighbor policies.
Robert George, who has been researching the idea and the issue for some time, reported at the January meeting of WSANA that he and others recently took a tour of the Habit-Opco Methadone Clinic on Topeka Street. When touring the facility, they found out Habit-Opco has a ‘Good Neighbor Policy’ that carries consequences for their clients. They also learned that just about every provider in the area, including the homeless shelters, likely have a similar policy.
However, very few of the issues within the existing Good Neighbor Policies are addressing the horrendous consequences of addiction and homelessness that often park themselves on the front stoops of WSANA neighbors.
“We learned Habit-Opco actually has a Good Neighbor Policy that we really want to use to impact some of our concerns as we deal with some of their clients and and the clients of the homeless shelters,” he said. “Others do have policies as well, but they aren’t consistent. There are some issues we want to address with these policies and we want to include the homeless shelters too. For Habit, a large, large part of their clients are drivers. A lot of their Good Neighbor Policy is dealing with driving into the neighborhood and leaving the neighborhood.”
The Habit policy requires that clients sign their Good Neighbor Policy with a witness, and if found to be in violation, it can result in a patient being discharged.
“The intent of this notice is to inform you of activities in the community which may result in discharge from the program,” read the Policy. “It is our goal to retain patients by making our expectations clear to avoid any possible actions that would impact your treatment.”
Some of the things stipulated are reckless driving, disturbing the peace with loud car music and squealing tires, shoplifting, seeking out illegal drugs, and parking/traffic violations.
George said he felt it was a good start and something the neighborhood can hang its hat on. However, he said he would like to craft a WSANA version that is approved by the City and the South End Forum’s Opiate Task Force – which includes neighbors and City leaders. That document in its finished form would apply to all of the service providers in the area, including all of the Methadone Clinics, Rosie’s Place, the two City shelters, and any Suboxone programs such as at Boston Medical Center and South End Health Center.
“We want to pull all the problems we’ve identified regularly and push these things to the Opiate Task Force,” he said. “Drug abuse is an obvious one to list. Loitering is another. Congregating or sleeping on private property is another. Panhandling, dumping trash and not knowing bathroom access are others…We would want this Good Neighbor Policy for Methadone Clinics, Homeless Shelters and all service providers in the Mass Ave, Melnea Cass and Southhampton areas. That includes any clinics or facilities with other services like Suboxone.”
Several neighbors said they have had problems with Rosie’s Place lately, especially with their clients congregating on the entrances to people’s homes – often blocking residents from leaving their homes.
“It’s very hard to know what to do,” said on Harrison Avenue neighbor. “I want these organizations to understand this has to be addressed. I don’t want it to happen that at some point I approach someone to move from my door and I get stabbed.”
George and others at WSANA said they hoped that with a strong Good Neighbor Policy in place for all organizations, it could prevent major problems from developing in the future and ease the problems that currently exist.
“We really want to put this idea over to the Task Force,” concluded George. “We have a chance to really get people involved and get some momentum.”