By Michael Coughlin Jr.
The redevelopment of the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital Campus has been a hot topic recently in Jamaica Plain and other surrounding neighborhoods, and the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council’s (JPNC) Housing and Development Committee shared its thoughts on the proposal during its meeting on August 15.
Back in June, the state provisionally designated Boston Medical Center and its partners (BMC Team) for the redevelopment of the campus on Morton Street. Since then, the proposal has been presented at community meetings, most recently on August 15.
The site’s plans, outlined in a presentation from last week’s meeting, can be found on a website dedicated to the redevelopment.
A statement on the website describes that the redevelopment intends to “offer an innovative model of clinical treatment and housing aimed at curbing the interlocking public health crises of mental illness, addiction, and homelessness.”
According to the aforementioned presentation, the proposal would offer 446 total beds and 405 units of supportive housing while increasing the amount of green space and providing clinical and emergency housing services.
When it became time to speak about the Shattuck, the feelings about the project from those at the JPNC’s Housing and Development Committee meeting were certainly mixed in what has been a very polarizing subject.
On one hand, some of those in attendance at last week’s meeting did not seem convinced the proposal would be a good idea for a number of reasons.
One resident cited concerns with drug paraphernalia, like needles, popping up in Franklin Park and how that is seemingly already a significant issue.
This resident spoke about a website developed by another resident — http://bostonheatmap.com/ — which documents needle and drug paraphernalia pickups.
“Right about the time that the temporary housing was put in the Shattuck… the needles just skyrocketed to 200-250 a month,” said the resident.
The resident indicated that the data and the conviction from the person who developed that website have convinced them that the proposal is “risky” and “conceptual.”
Also, a member of the JPNC in attendance said they opposed the proposal “100 percent,” citing a lack of control of those dealing with things like substance use issues and indicating they were not convinced a project at this scale would work.
“The problem becomes that nobody really has control. When they bring these people in, there is no mandate that they have to take advantage of the services that are being provided for them — nobody can force them to do that, nobody’s saying to them you have to,” said the JPNC member.
“I just don’t see it. I’ve checked the West Coast, looked all up and around the areas out there, and they’ve tried these in smaller versions, and it hasn’t worked,” they also said, speaking about the feasibility of a proposal like this having success.
Others in the meeting seemed to be a bit more forgiving about the proposal. One community member of the JPNC’s Housing and Development Committee spoke in detail about how the number of beds proposed — not including the supportive housing — is actually fewer than the number at the Shattuck currently.
They also spoke about how the uses of the 446 proposed beds are split into clinical beds for things like detox and in-patient psychiatric care and emergency beds for emergency housing and outpatient addiction treatment.
Additionally, the committee member spoke about the proposed 405 units of supportive housing — 205 of which are family-supportive housing — and how it would be done in two phases.
“My 10-year-old went to the Shattuck Child Care Center, the Shattuck, on the campus for two, three years — no problems,” said the committee member.
“I just want to make sure that people are not fearmongering — these are our neighbors,” they added.
Further, a member of the JPNC pointed out that the proposal would not only attempt to support those with substance use issues but also provide much-needed services for those with mental health issues or those experiencing homelessness.
“I know that people are worried about needles and about safety and about drug paraphernalia, but there are multiple types of services that are being provided in this proposal. Of course, substance use disorder is one of the things that is being addressed, but chronic homelessness is another, and it’s not necessarily tied to substance use,” said the JPNC member.
“The services that are being proposed are just so, so, badly needed,” they added.
As the meeting progressed, multiple attendees gave their thoughts about the project and commented on the overarching process.
To learn more about the proposal, you can find a recording of the August 15 meeting and the presentation at https://www.mortonstreetredevelopment.org/.
There are also plans for an in-person community open house about the proposal at the Lena Park Community Center in Dorchester on September 19 at 5:30 p.m.