Southampton Engagement Center on Schedule to Open August 1

By Seth Daniel

The new pilot program to get a low-barrier day center, otherwise known as “the tent” in the Mass/Cass corridor for those that hang around the area is on schedule and will likely open on Aug. 1, said Jen Tracey of the Office of Recovery Services.

Speaking at the South End Forum Opiate Working Group on Tuesday, she said the grass-roots solution that came from input on the street and from neighbors is in its final stages of preparations.

“The Engagement Center was one idea that came from people on the street – responding to whether they would go in to a place that was a low-threshold center,” she said. “The answer was ‘yes.’ The Center is going to be located at 112 Southampton Street adjacent to the shelter…We’re still shooting for Aug. 1 for an opening day. I want to ask for your help in helping us get this up and running…The staff is hired. We have a couple more pending hires now. The Office of New Urban Mechanics has looked at the space and has a vision for its design. The furniture is ordered and in. We painted the floors the  other day, and the Boston Public Library just donated a book shelf and some books for those who come in to create a reading nook.”

She said they hope to open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. the first week, with the overall goal of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. eventually. The occupancy would be for 100 people.

Renderings of the design unveiled by Susan Nguyen of the Office of New Urban Mechanics showed a lot has been done with a very little.

The outside contains a grass area with picnic tables and umbrellas and Port-a-Potties.

Inside,  using different colors of paint, they have divided the spaces into small areas for gathering. Other areas are used for staff, and an office area is created in the back for engaging those there in recovery resources – something that Boston Healthcare for the Homeless is helping with.

“The area is designed to have several small areas because we found people are less comfortable in a big open room with lots of chairs,” said Nguyen.

Inside, there will be televisions, couches, a quiet sitting area, coffee, water, snacks and maybe lunch.

Jim Green of the Department of Neighborhood Development said they are going to develop palm cards to hand out to people on the street, and also to give to participants and neighbors.

“I have high hopes because I have talked to people on my front stairs and my back alley and told them they need to move on,” said resident Andy Brand. “The answer is  always, ‘Where do you want me to go?’ I have never had an answer, but this is now an answer I can give them.”

Steve Fox, moderator of the South End Forum, said he hopes that it works.

“I’m hopeful, but I remain skeptical,” he said.


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