BOSTON (CBS) — The Pine Street Inn is leasing a hotel on Methadone Mile and converting it into a shelter, WBZ-TV’s I-Team learned.
Methadone Mile is an area of Massachusetts Avenue where active drug use, treatment clinics, and homelessness intersect. “We think of it as the epicenter of the opioid addiction crisis in Boston, if not the state,” said Steve Fox the moderator of the South End Forum.
The Best Western Plus hotel, previously known at the Roundhouse Suites, will be leased out for a year starting next month.
“It is precisely where the most vulnerable people among us should not be. We were pretty disappointed that this was the only option,” said Fox. “We have significant needle problems. We have new drugs being introduced all the time. We have drug cocktails being consumed. We have people shooting up on the streets. The police are trying their best to manage the situation but we all know we are not going to arrest our way out of this.”
Pine Street Inn does not disagree with any of these concerns but said with COVID-19, the homeless shelter still needed more beds for social distancing.
Suffolk University dorms they have been leasing have to be returned to the school by the end of July.
“There are no good solutions right now to shelter de-crowding problem. It is the best we could do with the time,” said Lyndia Downie, president of Pine Street Inn. “We will have security inside the building 24/7, we will have staff inside the building 24/7 as well. Staff that will really run the operations and work with the guests and then the housing placement team.”
She admitted they won’t be able to prevent every potential problem, “but we will work very hard.”
Pine Street Inn guaranteed the community it would not backfill rooms once residents are moved to temporary or supportive housing.
Fox said, “Pine Street Inn is not happy with this and the community isn’t happy with it. So the best we can do at this point is to try to find a way to accommodate this for one year, reassure people that it’s only a temporary thing, and try to put restrictions on its use that will protect this vulnerable population.“
Downie understands the situation is far from anyone’s ideal. “The job really is for us to use this as a bridge to then figure out how do we really build housing, quickly, cheaply, how do we find buildings we could retrofit for housing for folks. Homelessness is bad for everybody.”
Statement from Marty Martinez, Boston’s Chief of Health & Human Services: “We are living in unprecedented times that require tough decisions to be made on a daily basis. The agreement between the Roundhouse and Pine Street Inn is a temporary measure that is necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 among our most vulnerable residents and the dedicated staff that care for them. We look forward to continuing to assist shelter guests with their housing search to get them out homelessness and into safe, stable housing.”