I would like to express my personal support and that of the nonprofit Rogerson Communities for the redevelopment of the former Barbara McInnis House as presented by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (“Homeless care project is back in court,” March 2). Not only am I a long-term resident of Jamaica Plain now residing on Sheridan Street, but I also have 30 years of experience as a nonprofit real estate developer and manager of housing for underserved populations.
The Parkside neighborhood would be hard-pressed to find a better neighbor than one that combines the forces of three of Boston’s most respected housing and healthcare organizations. Buildings operated by JPNDC and the Pine Street Inn elsewhere in Jamaica Plain are some of the very best-managed properties to be found across all of Boston. The neighborhood would be well-served to welcome owners and managers who are committed to maintaining high-quality programs and the real estate within which they reside.
Over the past decade, our city and our neighborhood have seen a rapid growth in homelessness. Some say it’s our vets; others say the cause is deinstitutionalization. Still others claim that the cause is drugs and alcohol use. The recent economy has sent many more children and elders to join the ranks. But the real cause, the root cause, the systemic cause, is that these people have no place to live. We need support for many more Barbara McInnis Houses—not opposition to them.
The change in usage at the Barbara McInnis House makes excellent sense for the neighborhood. With 30 studio apartments and 20 respite beds, the clientele will be far less transient than that of the previous 60-bed respite care facility. These individuals will become healthier and better able to care for themselves and participate in their communities in a productive way.
During my own career I have been impressed time and time again by the overwhelmingly positive response to work done by quality nonprofit developers. When a building has fallen into disrepair, property values decline along with it. When the building is reclaimed and restored to active, well-managed use, the properties nearby tend to follow suit and the whole neighborhood benefits.
Our friends and neighbors who have become so upset by the prospect of this housing program need a little more grounding in Jamaica Plain community life. After 40 years here and seeing this vibrant community on the steady incline, I want the last ones in to the leave the drawbridge down. They must have come for the diversity. Why work against it?
Before going against a program like the one coming to the former Barbara McInnis House, spend some time with the Franklin park Coalition, take a seat at the Neighborhood Council, maybe join the Jamaica Pond Association, or even better, lend a hand to Egleston Square Main Street. Whole Foods can never change the character of this neighborhood, but NIMBYism can do it in one generation.
James F. Seagle Jr.
President, Rogerson Communities