Boston, Masssachusetts – Abundant Housing Massachusetts (AHMA) stands in full support of the visioning for a reimagined Morton Street Campus (formerly Shattuck Hospital), by the Boston Medical Center (BMC)-led coalition of community-based housing and service providers.
As a Boston-based, statewide organization fighting to build a Massachusetts for Everyone, AHMA supports the creation of homes in every community of our Commonwealth for all people, no matter their lot in life. When we say everyone, we mean everyone, including our neighbors who struggle with drug addiction, mental illness, and homelessness.
AHMA believes the evidence is clear: the housing first model, combined with access to drug treatment, mental health support, and other social services works to help people overcome these challenges and remain stably housed. The housing providers included in this partnership are all trusted Boston-based organizations with a combined century of experience providing shelter and permanent homes to our neighbors grappling with homelessness and housing instability. The six service providers in this partnership, including BMC, have been the backbone providing critical health and social services support to generations of Bostonians in need. If anyone in Boston can execute on this proven model of housing and service support, it is this team.
Currently, many of the services that would be provided at the Morton Street campus are concentrated in the Lower Roxbury community. While many in the conversations around this proposed campus have raised concerns about the impact of concentration of these services at this location, the reality is that the creation of this campus would decentralize many of the services – expanding them to neighborhoods beyond Lower Roxbury.
AHMA strongly supports the inclusion of a variety of permanent supportive housing types on this site, including both individual and family housing. Without the inclusion of the family housing component, the overall project may risk reflecting the concentration of services that has concerned some people in this conversation. AHMA applauds the project team for the diversity of uses and housing types so as to not isolate our neighbors who need the variety of social services provided on this campus from their families and loved ones.
Community input on major projects like this is critical. AHMA praises BMC and their partners for engaging in extensive community discussion at this early stage in the process and hearing the concerns of Boston residents that live both near and far from the Morton Street site. However, it is also critical to recognize that this land was deeded by the Commonwealth for public health uses and will likely remain as such. “Alternative proposals” suggested in the course of some meetings are unrealistic, not rooted in best practices for housing first and wrap around treatment models, and may even violate state law regarding the use of this land. Additionally, AHMA condemns in the strongest terms some of the racist, classist, and ableist language that we have heard from some community members in opposition to this project.
The Shattuck redevelopment process exemplifies many of the reasons Massachusetts has a housing crisis today: multiple layers of permitting and meetings delay good and necessary proposals, lack of clear and streamlined process makes it hard for community members to understand what the decision to be made is, unrepresentative ways of soliciting community feedback amplify the loudest anti-housing voices and at times serve as vectors for the spread of conspiracy theories rather than frank discussion of project specifics. We applaud the Commonwealth for pushing forward here and will continue to advocate for housing for all as well as legal changes that will make it easier to build a home for everyone.