By Ann Mostue
About 100 homeless people and their advocates rallied from City Hall Plaza to the State House Wednesday seeking solutions to the problems that have arisen in the wake of the unexpected forced closing of Boston’s Long Island homeless shelter.
It was a peaceful gathering. Many are now living on the streets. A woman who introduced herself as Heather told the crowd she lived in the shelter and worked in its kitchen. She said that routine helped keep her sober.
“Two weeks after the island closed I went to my day group. I filled up my schedule with groups and meetings because I wasn’t working anymore because the island’s closed. And I went to group one day and I broke down. I said I need help. I feel like I’m going to relapse. I lost my whole routine, my foundation for my recovery.”
Heather is now staying with her parents in Quincy, but wants to return to Long Island – if just to get her belongings.
“Everything, all my clothes, my hygiene products, my photos of my daughter my planner book, my big book, my pillow, my blanket.”
It’s not clear she or anyone will be able to return to the shelter. The city has put temporary beds in the South End fitness center. And a few other beds for women in the atrium of Boston Healthcare for the Homeless. Rally organizer Lynnel Cox says her son is a heroin addict who stayed at the Long Island shelter but is living now on Boston Common. She says no one is asking for an island, just more beds and treatment programs.
“You cannot help your loved one, they must help themselves. But I could not bear to go through another winter worrying about my son out on the streets. So I thought, one morning, maybe I can help someone else’s kid.”
The cold weather is turning the situation into a crisis, participants say. Democratic State Senator Jamie Eldridge attended the rally and says he stands in solidarity with the homeless.
“I am urging Governor Patrick and his Health and Human Services Agency to propose their plan for better serving the city.”
City officials say they’re considering whether to replace the bridge and reopen the shelter on Long Island. Or to construct another temporary shelter along the Southeast Expressway. Rally organizers say they’re just asking for an update.