City Councilor Frank Baker appeared at the Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA) on Tuesday to give a legislative update, and a majority of that was spent discussing the possibility of Safe Injection Sites (SIFs) in the neighborhood.
“I’m a little more hopeful for them not happening than I was a year ago,” Baker told the neighborhood, noting he is adamantly against them. “It’s not going to happen without a willing mayor or a willing city council. I’ve often said to those in progressive parts of the City that are pushing for these that if they want them, they can put one over there. I don’t think the South End can handle it or should handle it. It would be devastating to the neighborhood and normalize the activity we see out there now.”
Baker has long been opposed to SIFs, and he joins the choir in WSANA – a group that has uniformly opposed the idea of a SIF in the neighborhood since it was alluded to by the Mass Medical Society two years ago in a position paper advocating for SIFs in the state.
Right now, as part of the governor’s Opiate 3.0 bill passed in July by the State Legislature, a task force has been meeting to study and produce a report about SIFs. Mayor Martin Walsh is on that committee, as is Jessie Gaeta from the South End’s Boston Health Care for the Homeless. So far they’ve had a few meetings, but not much has transpired yet, and the committee has a report due in February.
Baker said he formed his opinion after visiting Vancouver to see how their SIFs work. While saying they do absolutely save lives, he wondered about the quality of life for those being treated there. He said he has always preferred the idea of using services on a Long Island Recovery Campus – which the City is now embarking upon.
“I’m against Safe Injection Sites and I also hear they will save lives,” he said. “I’ve buried a brother and a niece and multiple friends. A SIF would have never saved my brother…I just see it as a political quick fix. It may make people legislatively feel good about themselves, but we’re not getting to the root of the issue. I don’t think people should be able to shoot heroin legally. We should make it more difficult to do heroin.
“I can’t unsee some of the things I saw in Vancouver; it was horrifying,” he added.
- In other news, WSANA was full out planning for a big Saturday on Dec. 1 when they will, for the first time in years, host the Enchanted Trolley stop in the South End. The WSANA lighting is one of the oldest continuous events in the City and this year they will welcome the entire Trolley show and Mayor Martin Walsh. President George Stergios reported that raffle tickets sales are brisk, but they could use more buyers. Tickets are available now and will be available at the begging of the lighting at 4 p.m.
He said they have contracted a band to play for the event, and will have a great variety of gifts from neighborhood businesses and establishments.
- A trash disposal meeting for neighbors with the Public Works Department will take place on the corner of Worcester Square and Harrison Avenue at 9 a.m. on Dec. 4. Neighbors have had numerous problems with trash collection and lingering trash on the street. Neighbors on Worcester Square pay $8,000 a year for extra clean-ups, and East Springfield pays $6,000 a year extra.