City Health and Human Services Chief Marty Martinez said that when the Long Island campus and Bridge are back up and running, the plan will not include taking the homeless shelters back to the island.
Instead, he said, the City has engaged the general public, providers and professionals to weigh in through a public Request for Information (RFI) process to find out what people want on the new Long Island – which will focus on being a world-class regional recovery campus.
It won’t, Martinez stressed, return to being the place for the City’s homeless shelters.
“The homeless services and shelters will not go back to Long Island,” he said during the South End Forum Opiate Working Group on Tuesday, Oct. 16. “The mayor doesn’t want to hide our homeless in shelters on the island, busing them there and busing them back. That is not what the mayor wants to do…We are not going to relocate the homeless services. Advocating for moving the Methadone Clinics and other services, all of that is on the table. That’s why we are talking with the state right now about what we might be able to put at the Shattuck Hospital site (in Jamaica Plain).”
The homeless shelters were moved abruptly in 2014 to the South End in the Worcester Square area, and it has been a constant thorn in the side of many residents since then.
Bob Minnocci, vice president of Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA), said moving the services to the South End was politically expedient.
“Since that move, it’s been a quality-of-life attack on us and a careless decision,” he said. “I think this is the best administration I’ve seen in Boston, but that was a mistake, and I think something should be done about that, too.”
Martinez, who has been on the job 10 months, said they are dividing up the Long Island process into three parts: the bridge, the buildings and the services.
The Bridge has been a very public battle with Quincy, and aside from getting a major win with state environmental reviewers recently, Boston has many a legal hurdle to clear before any construction can start.
The buildings have been less public.
Martinez said they have been doing an inventory of the 16 buildings on the Island to see what needs to be demolished and what can be saved. That survey, being done with a consultant, should be complete by the end of the year.
Already, on the service side, he said they have convened focus groups from Boston, the North Shore and the South Shore to identified the most pressing needs. He said that is being done because Long Island is seen as a regional service.
“The service provided now in your neighborhood are serving a regional population,” he said. “We know you know that.”
Beyond that, the biggest effort is the RFI, which he said is a genuine effort to get input and mesh that input into the final plan.
“What we need to do is understand the full continuum and do that through an intentional planning process,” he said. “When I tell you we want community input, that’s exactly what I mean. Sometimes planning processes are for show and not real. This planning process is for real.”
Within that process, he added, they are in discussions with the state to loop in the Shattuck Hospital relocation process to make sure they are all working together. The Shattuck Hospital is slated to move to the Boston Medical Center campus in the near future, with a purchase of 88 E. Newton St. coming any day now. A state-led process to plan for what happens at the existing Shattuck site in Jamaica Plain is now underway and it is in collaboration with Long Island, he said.
He indicated that Long Island would be developed in two phases.
Phase One would be the completion of the Bridge in 2021, and an immediate offering of some of the most critical services on the Island.
“We will be cutting the ribbon on the Bridge and then cutting the ribbon on the first phase of services, which will be for the most immediate needs,” he said. “We can’t afford to wait.”
- The Opiate Working Group also began to formulate a plan for whether or not it would take positions of support or denial on any one of the marijuana dispensary plans now vying for space in the South End.
Moderator Steve Fox said he has been considering whether the Working Group would be the right venue for evaluating such proposals and rendering a decision upon them, particularly since the Group has a vested interest in substance abuse issues.
Many were uncomfortable with that, though.
“I do think we should articulate concerns, but I think we should stop short of endorsing,” said David Stone of Blackstone/Franklin Neighborhood Association.”
Said Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, “I would caution inviting all the proposals here. You could dilute the conversation, it could become repetitive to some and the process is changing on Jan. 1, too…It may be more beneficial to hear from the administration.”