Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: New apartments for homeless people are important stride toward affordable housing in Boston

Pine Street Inn, an organization committed to helping homeless individuals find steady housing, received approval on Thursday from Boston Planning & Development Agency to move forward with their plans to build the city’s largest affordable housing complex for those who have been homeless for long periods.

The Jamaica Plain structure will include 140 units for single adults that have a history of homelessness and 62 units meant for income-restricted families that are below a certain median income for the area, according to WBUR. 

Pine Street Inn already owns the land and is still coordinating the finances of the project, but this approval from the city was the step they needed to begin concrete planning.

Programs of this sort are important, but it is also essential to prevent the concentration of poverty in one area. This can lead to areas ending up like Boston’s infamous Methadone Mile, a stretch of Massachusetts Avenue known for homelessness and drug addiction and an extreme example of what can happen when cities accumulate services for low-income residents in one place.

Additionally, ensuring these facilities remain a stable housing option for consistently homeless and low-income residents is just as essential as providing them in the first place. If they are allowed to become run-down and undesirable, people that would likely benefit from their services may be deterred from doing so.

But none of these are insurmountable obstacles and, if given enough attention and consideration, will not become a barrier to providing services to homeless individuals.

There will be on-site social services at the residences in order to provide patrons with tools to improve their lives, according to Curbed Boston. It is important this housing provides short-term relief to people who need stable and affordable housing, but also fosters an environment that eventually leads them out of these special accommodations. 

Resources such as job training and long-term health care must be made readily available to tenants facing extenuating circumstances and those who cannot seek these options out for themselves.

That being said, this should not feel like some sort of in-patient treatment center. It is simply affordable housing provided to a specific demographic that has serious barriers to stable housing.

Although many homeless people suffer with mental health and substance abuse — whether because of their homelessness or the other way around — residents must be treated as adults who should seek help for themselves through optional resources provided by Pine Street Inn.

One of the key factors in creating the large homeless population Boston sees today has been the housing crisis the city currently faces. Rent is higher than ever and more residents are being pushed out of the city due to financial constraints.

While the immediate relief provided to a couple hundred residents at this facility is a step in the right direction, it is imperative Boston continues to make strides toward a more long-term option for all residents whether they have been homeless before or not.

One Comment

  1. This housing, which is important, is still a bandaid. We need a much more comprehensive approach. When we look at addiction, crime, and other such problems, one thing stands out: those people that grew up in what used to be called broken families are by far overrepresented in these groups. The Fatherlessness project has some stats at its website that are heartbreaking. Sure, there were alcoholics, and drug addicts, and homeless people in the 1920’s. But not like now. Cornel West’s book The War on the Family details how the layer of community, and even family, that insulated children in a sort of protective cocoon- is now mostly gone. When my parents were young, as educators note, there were four legs to the chair of education: school, family, community, and church. Expecting overworked teachers to make up for the near collapse of the other 3 legs is at best unfair, and is stupid. Bandaid cures like this one- however necessary- are a drop in the ocean. What we need is a societal focus on fixing these problems at the source. It is very expensive to have dependent people. A society focused on helping people become self-supporting, and independent, wouldn’t be having these debates. I don’t know how we make this change, but we need to. Go through the bad areas. You are guaranteed to find addicts, single parents [I was a single parent for 14 years, it’s a very difficult job, on top of a regular job], and major emotional trauma. We need comprehensive solutions, that get the job done, over and above good individual ideas like these. And the major reason people fight affordable housing is their great, visceral fear that this societal chaos will show up in their neighborhoods. This chaos crosses racial, and economic lines. The children of the rich buy their drugs in the bad areas. Separation isn’t working. We need to heal. How can we get started? Today? Since the politicians just want to argue.