New shel­ter opens for home­less men

Metro USA (Boston) - - FRONT PAGE - NATE HO­MAN

In the park­ing lot of a newly ren­o­vated home­less men’s shel­ter, Luis Rosario stood next to Mayor Marty Walsh and told a crowd that he was once a “bro­ken bum” be­fore be­com­ing one of the first 100 men to move into the Southamp­ton Street shel­ter.

“I’m not a bum to­day,” Rosario, 45, said. “The shel­ter helped me find re­cov­ery and work. They never once looked down on me. I went from stand­ing on the corners beg­ging for change to grad­u­at­ing from Went­worth’s weld­ing pro­gram.”

Eight months af­ter the Long Is­land Bridge came down, shut­ting down the city’s largest shel­ter, Walsh and other of­fi­cials cel­e­brated the open­ing of the new shel­ter space in a ren­o­vated trans­porta­tion build­ing in the South End.

“This pro­ject is a tes­ta­ment to what can be es­tab­lished when we work to­gether to tackle our City’s big­gest chal­lenges,” said Mayor Walsh. “This is not just a shel­ter, but a front door to coun­sel­ing, sup­port and per­ma­nent hous­ing.”

In Jan­uary, 112 Southamp­ton Street of­fered 100 beds. It added 50 beds in April and blos­somed into the fa­cil­ity that opened on Thurs­day, of­fer­ing 400 emer­gency beds for home­less men. Walsh said that the Woods-Mullen Shel­ter on Mass. Ave. would be­come an all-women’s shel­ter in the near fu­ture.

The fa­cil­ity has a sep­a­rate space for those who do not iden­tify with a spe­cific gen- der, in­clud­ing 66 beds and gen­der-neu­tral bath­rooms and showers.

“In­di­vid­u­als can choose which fa­cil­ity they want to go to,” In­terim Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor and Med­i­cal Di­rec­tor Dr. Huy Nguyen said. “We are aware that some of our guests do have those kinds of con­cerns.”

Walsh’s Task Force on In­di­vid­ual Home­less­ness aims to end vet­eran home­less­ness this year and chronic home­less­ness by 2018.

Bos­ton has one of the low­est rates of ur­ban home­less­ness in the U.S., but the num­ber of peo­ple in need is grow­ing. The Task Force es­ti­mates that $60.9 mil­lion re­sources are avail­able for the next three years, and they’ll need $12.7 mil­lion more, which they’ll se­cure through public and pri­vate part­ners.

The pro­gram’s front door triage sys­tem fo­cuses on aid­ing un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors and un­treated sub­stance abusers and in­creases street out­reach pro­grams. Their cen­tral­ized data pro­gram will mon­i­tor in­di­vid­u­als and line up rapid re­hous­ing and em­ploy­ment ac­cess.

Since 2013, the task force has helped house 191 long-term guests, 391 rapidly housed in­di­vid­u­als, 67 highly vul­ner­a­ble in­di­vid­u­als and 640 home­less vet­er­ans. In 2014, 414 home­less vet­er­ans sought shel­ter in Bos­ton. As of this year, 80 re­main home­less, five are on the streets, 18 in shel­ters and 57 in tran­si­tional hous­ing pro­grams.

“Even when we get that num­ber down to zero, we will al­ways have to look out for new vet­er­ans re­turn­ing who need the help,” Walsh said.

“I started us­ing drugs and al­co­hol again. I came here to the shel­ter. It was smaller then; I en­rolled in the treat­ment pro­gram. With­out this place, I don’t know where I would be right now. This place saved me.”

Bos­to­nian Ed­die R.

/ NI­CO­LAUS CZARNECKI, METRO

Bos­ton Mayor Marty Walsh toured the new Southamp­ton Street shel­ter on Thurs­day (left). Bos­ton Public Health Com­mis­sion In­terim Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Dr. Huy Nguyen (right) at­tends the shel­ter’s rib­bon cut­ting.

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