There needs to be more shelter space
Re “A deepening despair” by David Abel (Page A1, Sept. 13): The current crisis in homelessness in Boston has many causes, and several have been mentioned. However, one very important cause has been neglected.
For the better part of six months, the two principal shelters accepting new guests in the Boston area have been the Southampton Street Shelter (for men) and the Woods-Mullen Shelter (for women), both highlighted in the article. Other providers have been doing stellar work to “decongest” their shelters by placing guests in dorms, hotels, etc., but if you were not already a guest there, you could not stay there as a new guest.
There is a role for shelters like Southampton and Woods-Mullen, but they are challenging places in a challenging neighborhood. Pre-COVID, I often referred patients to other shelters around the city. Yes, we need more low-income housing, addiction treatment, etc., but we also need safe indoor places in other parts of the city tomorrow.
Dr. Theresa Kim
Officials ought to embrace wisdom of safe sites to use drugs
David Abel’s “A deepening despair” lacked even a passing mention of a proven and effective alternative to the troubling circumstances around the area known as “Methadone Mile.”
There is a growing consensus in the public health, medical, and law-enforcement communities that these tragic situations will not be solved by so-called recovery police on bicycles or by carting those struggling with substance use disorder to isolated treatment “campuses.”
For decades, safe consumption sites have offered hope and assistance to those who struggle with even the most problematic drug use. These sites reduce overdose deaths and injection-related infections, including HIV and endocarditis. Safe consumption sites increase participation in treatment and in other efforts that reconnect those who use drugs with their families and communities. They also have proved to reduce the incidence of antisocial behavior in the neighborhoods that host them.
In cities such as Toronto, London, Lisbon, Barcelona, Stockholm, and Berlin, safe consumption sites can be found adjacent to restaurants and hotels, with no disruption or safety risks. The people who use them are treated with compassion and respect. They are offered a way to a healthier, more stable life, and they respond appropriately.
Safe consumption sites work in areas precisely like “the Mile.” Our public officials need to abandon the crutch of easy stigma, examine the facts, and pursue the proven opportunity offered by safe consumption sites.
First Church Shelter
The writer is on the steering committee of the advocacy coalition SIFMA Now.