NIMBYism is shocking to activist and former homeless person

I had hoped to spend a couple of minutes relating my experiences with Boston Health Care for Homeless Program (BHCHP) and Paul Sullivan Housing at the Zoning Committee meeting about plans for 461 Walnut Ave. on Oct. 14. Due to the limited time and the number of people who wished to speak, the chairperson wisely limited that number. I deferred speaking.It was nice to see the proposed cosmetic changes to the site. Other changes that affect the vehicular traffic flow have been addressed, and it sounds like there is some agreement that it is no longer a major concern.

Allusions in the question-and-answer part of the meeting and statements in more than a few pieces of public correspondence that I’ve seen indicated people have concerns about a possible increase in substance abuse in the area, increased foot traffic and the safety of children. Those statements made me sense that a very broad brush is being used to paint the picture of a “typical” tenant of Paul Sullivan Housing. Personally, I feel insulted.

I have been a Paul Sullivan tenant for a little over a-year-and-a-half. My rent consumes a substantial portion of my income every month. For that, I am provided with a residence in a safe, clean, limited access building. My lease includes the same provisions, and then some, as those of other local residents.

Before, I lived at Holy Family Men’s Shelter for a few months, and before, for a short while at Pine Street Inn. Just days after I arrived at the inn, one of the case managers there saw that I was still in dire straits from having been assaulted near Forest Hills Station. He and the nurses at the BHCHP satellite clinic at Paul Sullivan Inn sent me to the Barbara McInnis House in the medical center where I spent over a week recovering somewhat from my fractures and contusions. BHCHP is a blessing to this city’s homeless population.

I believe that a person should make a positive contribution to his community. While living outside of Massachusetts and before finding myself homeless, I served two terms as an elected official on a public utility commission, delivered Meals-On-Wheels for several years, was active in my neighborhood civic association and Citizens-On-Patrol program, was a radio host on public stations in Austin and Houston, helped care for a rhino at the zoo and was an elections official. Since moving to Boston, I have been a volunteer at the AIDS Action Committee and Shattuck Hospital; I have tutored teens and young adults, and I have been a poll worker for the past three years.

People who live in the neighborhood around the old McInnis House need to realize that the men and women who will reside at the redeveloped site are looking for a safe and secure home and want to be good neighbors. They are not bent on turning your lives topsy-turvy. Jamaica Plain would have been the last place where I would expect to find NIMBY (Not in My Backyard)-ism. It leaves me awestruck.

Paul F. Sullivan
Mission Hill

Editor’s note: The writer is no relation to Paul Sullivan of Paul Sullivan Housing Trust.

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