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The Bay State Banner
The Bay State Banner

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Wu not opposed to Shattuck units

Says city needs low-threshold housing

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO

Despite a pledge last year to spread throughout the city housing and addiction treatment services for the homeless population concentrated in the area around Mass and Cass, Mayor Michelle Wu is not opposing a proposed 400-unit housing shelter that would be built at the site of the Shattuck Hospital in Franklin Park — a move Roxbury residents say would strain a community already overburdened with transitional housing.

Asked by the Banner whether she supports the Shattuck project, Wu cited a need for more services for those struggling with homelessness and addiction.

“We need more access to low-threshold supportive housing, when sited in a way that is in partnership with community members and connected to services at a scale that can really emphasize treatment and stability.”

Since the city sited 30 temporary housing units on the parking lot of the Shattuck and added treatment services, abutters to the park say they have seen a marked increase in discarded needles and people buying and injecting heroin, as well as tents, shelters and discarded trash in the wooded areas of the park.

A majority of the temporary housing units that city officials and nonprofit agencies have sited so far are in and around Roxbury. With the city’s pledge to identify 1,000-such units across the city, it now appears that more than half of those units will be in Roxbury, causing some pushback.

“Roxbury is already filled with affordable housing and nonprofits,” said District 7 City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson. “We need to build things here that add to our quality of life. We’re not building a healthy environment here.”

Fernandes Anderson’s Humboldt Avenue address is within a quarter-mile of seven sober homes and shelters for people experiencing homelessness and drug addiction.

Separate from the city’s efforts to find locations, the Pine Street Inn, which runs supportive housing facilities throughout the city, faced fierce opposition from Dorchester residents during a public meeting on plans to locate permanent supportive housing at the former Comfort Inn on Morrissey Boulevard. District 3 City Councilor Frank Baker, who wrote a letter of support for the Shattuck proposal, told the Dorchester Reporter he thought the 110 units there was “a lot” for the neighborhood.

“It’s going to potentially be high-risk individuals,” he told the Reporter.

At-large Councilor Erin Murphy, who also lives in Dorchester, expressed opposition to the Morrissey Boulevard project as well.

Fernandes Anderson says she supports the idea of treatment facilities in Roxbury, but notes that the neighborhood currently has a higher concentration of such services than any other neighborhood in the city, with much of the spillover from the Mass and Cass area affecting nearby schoolyards and parks in the Roxbury.

“There’s a reason nobody wants this concentrated in one area,” she said.

Abutters in Roxbury and the South End as well as elected officials whose districts abut the Mass and Cass area — including Baker — have long called for decentralizing the housing and addiction treatment services currently clustered there. City Realty last year filed plans with the Boston Planning and Development Agency for the construction of an 11-story, $207-million life sciences center in the area, which is near Boston Medical Center and Boston University Medical School.