In the wake of the surprise, new homeless shelter at the Roundhouse Hotel on Mass/Cass in the South End, residents and business of the South End are combining forces to create their own standards of conduct for the 180-person shelter, and they are said to have the backing of Mayor Martin Walsh.
That in opposition to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was crafted with Pine Street Inn, the Roundhouse and the Newmarket Business Association.
“The South End will be drawing up our own MOU that specifically addresses the key concerns of the commercial and resident community of the South End,” said Steve Fox, moderator of the South End Forum.
The move is in response to an unexpected announcement by Pine Street Inn on July 10 that they had procured a one-year lease to use the Roundhouse Hotel on Mass/Cass – the epicenter of the opiate epidemic in New England and a place that was tabbed to have fewer social services and not more. The plan relocated 180 individuals to 92 rooms in the hotel from the Suffolk University dormitory and was to start on Aug. 1 if not sooner.
The move caught many in City Hall by surprise, including upper level managers and cabinet members. It has also bred distrust in the neighborhood for residents and business owners alike. The announcement of a separate MOU seems to be the beginnings of a breaking between some partners on Mass/Cass and the neighborhood. Some in the South End said the Newmarket MOU had more protections for that area than the South End, and pushed the planned Business Improvement District (BID) program along with identified fees that Could have to be paid of more than $18,000.
Fox said Mayor Walsh is in support of the South End MOU process and has asked Pine Street to recognize and abide by it.
Some of the things that South End businesses and residents would be looking for in the MOU would include a promise not to backfill rooms when those living there are placed elsewhere in permanent housing – an overall goal of the Pine Street plan. That would mean once a person leaves, no one can take their place.
Another point would be to get Pine Street to agree to no renewals of the lease after 12 months, and finally, that there would be some fail safes built into the plan. For example, if they were to begin discussions about extending the lease or buying the property, the community would be notified.
“I think we want to hear about it even if they’re just talking,” said Fox.
A final piece would be information sharing and metrics to show the community the real progress of relocating clients to permanent housing – along with goals to meet by the six-month mark.
The situation has actually brought businesses and residents in the South End closer on issues related to social services. Fox said there are currently discussions between the South End Business Alliance (SEBA) and the South End Forum.
“Discussions are underway between SEBA and the Forum to create a unified approach to both commercial and residential interests in the South End,” he said.