BOSTON (CBS) — Boston’s Long Island looks more like Shutter Island these days.
The I-Team headed out to get an exclusive look at the abandoned property that was once used to house homeless people and those recovering from addiction.
“When you’re an addict or alcoholic, the less distraction the better,” said Al Ambrose, a recovery specialist with Hope House. “The space was huge. When I was in detox, I felt safe. The staff cared.”
But in 2014, the island closed.
“We were the health care providers on the island when it closed on October 8th,” said Barry Bock, the Chief Executive Officer with Boston Health Care For The Homeless. “We were ushered off the island. It was wildly disruptive for the people who were staying on the island.”
A year later, the city took down the Long Island Bridge because it was found to be unsafe. Since then, Boston has been battling in court with Quincy over access to rebuild it and reopen the island as a recovery center.
In the meantime, the I-Team found little has been done to keep up the property. In fact, a lot of the buildings were in significant disrepair. Overgrown shrubs, boarded-up windows, and padlocked doors have it looking like folks left in a hurry.
“They said everyone had to evacuate immediately,” said Bock. “We did it in three hours.”
Left behind was a fire station with the trucks still inside, papers left on desktops, vending machines full of food, and dormitory rooms with cots and residents personal items.
Ambrose says he had good memories of his time there, and tells the I-Team that it is sad that no one is fixing the property.
However, the city recently hired a consultant to inventory the buildings.
Just recently, a YouTuber, Exploring With Josh, posted a video of what it was like inside.
There was a performing arts center, now vandalized with broken windows and water damage. There was also a library with hundreds of books piled up covered in dust and debris, and a chapel with graffiti.
The city tells the I-Team that it is assessing and stabilizing the buildings.
We asked Bock if it would be helpful to have the recovery services on the island.
“I’ve reviewed some of the preliminary plans that the city has. Looking at workforce development, in addition to talking about detox and next levels. Once on the island, different forms of treatment and job training if interested in. I love the plan they’re creating looking to create a dignified and multi-layered campus.”
Those involved with helping people suffering from substance use disorder say with all the work that needs to be done, re-opening the campus is likely several years away. It won’t help solve the immediate crisis at Mass and Cass.
Ambrose believes the money would be best spent on fixing up the abandoned city buildings and the state’s Shattuck Hospital to help people.
Bock says Long Island as a standalone won’t solve the crisis, but believes if the city had been able to open the island several years ago, it could have mitigated what’s going on at Mass and Cass.
The city did not provide a copy of the consultant’s inventory report and also refused the I-Team’s request for an on-camera interview. They tell the I-Team it has budgeted $20 million to stabilize the buildings.
Boston also says it plans to rebuild the bridge despite ongoing legal challenges.
As for using a proposed ferry to access the island, the city says it is not feasible.