As children, Brian and Chris Worrell would pass the storefront at 5 Erie St. in Dorchester on their way to the school bus each day. They lived three blocks down on Hewins Street. Just around the corner, they’d play basketball at Fenelon Playground.
These days, the brothers still return to the small commercial block — but now as elected officials.
In mid-March, Brian, the District 4 city councilor, and Chris, state representative for the 5th Suffolk seat covering this area of Dorchester, opened an office at 5 Erie St. to provide what they called “top-notch constituent services” for people in the neighborhood. It is currently the only satellite City Council office in the city and believed to be the only one simultaneously held by a councilor and a state legislator.
Both brothers, who are each serving in their first term, say the space is part of a promise they made to voters while on the campaign trail — bringing transformative resources and policies from the confines of Beacon Hill and City Hall to the heart of their district.
“We want people to realize government can and will work for them,” said Brian Worrell, 40. He added that, in order for a constituent to consider government as a useful resource, “you have to feel the policy in your life ... I want them to see it, to feel it, to hear it, to almost taste it.”
The respective districts have different boundaries, but they overlap here at Erie Street, an ethnically diverse block composed of people from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, as well as Vietnamese, Bajan, and Cape Verdean communities.
It is also an area, the brothers said, that has seen a lack of investment from city and state government, and residents here have developed a healthy skepticism of government.
Both brothers said they heard such sentiments from residents while canvassing for votes. Politicians often descend on their block when Election Day nears, but when the campaign season is over, residents say, they are left alone to navigate housing assistance, secure a business loan, or fill a pesky pothole themselves.
“A lot of people in our community don’t have a direct line,” Chris Worrell, 37, said.
The state representative said he has seen the benefits of having a line to government, at both the city and state levels. Because he’s worked in government offices, he knows who to go to for what. Before taking office, he was the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s assistant director of diversity, equity, and inclusion. He also worked for state Senator Nick Collins, of South Boston, as director of constituent services.
“We fail because we don’t know,” Chris Worrell added. “We don’t know what is going on in the state and city, and by the time we do find out, the deadline has already hit.”
The brothers see the opening of a physical office in their district as a way of removing the bureaucratic tape that shuts some communities out. During a grand-opening ceremony on March 18, they underscored the historic nature of their initiative and the fulfillment of promises each made on the campaign trail.
“Growing up in Dorchester just around the corner, this means the world to me,” Brian Worrell told the crowd of at least 60 elected officials, community leaders, family, and constituents. “We’re on the floor ... so we can create policy that really works for the people.”
The office is tucked between an array of braiding shops, halal grocers, and mom-and-pop restaurants at the corner of Erie and Washington streets, and it blends into the rhythm of the Four Corners neighborhood. The sounds of car honks and the oontz-oontz of reggaeton music pierce into the atmosphere. At a nearby intersection, the free 23 bus makes frequent stops. The Four Corners/Geneva commuter rail stop is about 100 feet away.
Inside, the office still has some of its grand-opening glow. Bundles of blue and white balloons hang from the ceiling; bouquets of roses sit in vases at select desks. A black and gold basketball covered in signatures of attendees at the opening ceremony — including Mayor Michelle Wu and US Representative Ayanna Pressley — sits at another.
Paintings by local students line the pastel blue walls. A back room offers community event space, or privacy for constituents with more sensitive inquiries. The Worrells plan to invite local organizations to the office at least twice a month, so residents can learn about what programming is available.
The office is open noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, but the hours may change depending on community needs.
The brothers rent the commercial space for $1,050 a month using political campaign finances. As of March 31, Brian and Chris Worrell have about $33,600 on hand combined, according to the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance.
Chris Worrell said the partnership will allow each of the brothers to play to the strengths of their office: Brian uses his City Council seat to craft legislation on a more localized level, and Chris uses Beacon Hill’s broader, political power to pump more resources into causes they’re both passionate about.
“[Brian and I] have so many things aligned that we’re ready to send out and make a difference,” Chris Worrell said.
So far, the brothers said, about five residents have come in for at-length consultations each week. The conversations have centered around housing, but many others drop in for some quick chatter. One recent Friday afternoon, Alisa Fleming, a district resident and Boston Public Schools teacher, stopped in to learn more.
“Y’all trying to make some good changes?” she asked.
In a joking, sibling-rivalry fashion, the duo listed initiatives in their respective offices. The City Council recently passed legislation that would add 250 liquor licenses into certain Boston zip codes, Brian said. The district can expect a neighborhood hearing to assess the mental health crisis afflicting its residents, Chris added.
That all sounded great to Fleming.
“It’s just rare that we have a space to talk about this,” Fleming said.
Tiana Woodard is a Report for America corps member covering Black neighborhoods. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @tianarochon.