Housing license raises worries

November 3, 2006
By

JOHN RUCH

JP CENTER—Pine Street Inn has run into controversy over its 7 Locksley St. lodging house—reportedly not for the women’s housing that has been there for years, but what the program hypothetically could become in the future.

The house for very low-income and formerly homeless women was unintentionally unlicensed by a former owner. Pine Street is now seeking the license. But it asked for a deferral from the Licensing Board for the City of Boston last month following concerns raised at a meeting of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council’s Public Service Committee (PSC).

“There was some expression of support for housing at Locksley, and also there was some opposition,” said Ralph Hughes, Pine Street’s director of permanent housing, in a Gazette interview. “The concerns I’m hearing raised, and I think they’re legitimate concerns to have,…[are] what conceivably will happen in the future. There are not concerns about the women who live there. There are not concerns about the program that is there now.”

Hughes said Pine Street will meet with neighbors and try to find a way to allay any concerns.

PSC chair Michael Reiskind and Karen LeDuc of the local Robinwood/Parley Vale Neighborhood Association did not return Gazette phone calls for this article. Some residents previously told the Gazette they have no problems with the current program.

Women’s housing has been on the site for years, originally operated by the now-defunct Foundation of Hope. Pine Street took over management about four-and-a-half years ago, and ownership in 2003. Unbeknownst to Pine Street, Foundation of Hope never got a proper lodging house license, according to Hughes.

“We really should be licensed,” Hughes said. “It’s the right thing to do.” He said all other Pine Street facilities—including the Bowditch House on Green Street—are licensed.

The women’s housing program has not changed significantly since Foundation of Hope’s time, Hughes said.

“We have no plans for any changes, certainly, at this time,” he said, explaining the residents have formed a strong community. The program includes a live-in manager and an on-site case manager.

However, some residents worry that the program could change, especially by switching to housing men. That has previously been raised as a concern because there is a nearby facility that houses teenage girls. Hughes said there are also concerns that another institution could purchase the house and the license and create some other program.

Asked whether Pine Street can commit to the current program, or if flexibility is needed, Hughes said, “I don’t know yet,” pending further discussions.

“At a minimum, we could agree to consult with the community before making any changes,” he said.

Asked if Pine Street has neighborhood-oriented limitations on any of its other programs, Hughes said, “I don’t recall anything like that…but it’s not something we would be averse to doing.”

The next community meeting has yet to be scheduled, but would focus on abutters while being open to anyone, Hughes said. Pine Street might then go before the PSC again, though Hughes said Reiskind indicated a positive letter from neighbors would be enough if agreement is reached.

Pine Street is also part of the Blessed Sacrament Church site redevelopment, where it plans to create a managed lodging house in the former convent.