Two things that make me go hmmmm or a shelter by any other name is still a shelter 6

There are lots of things that make me go hmmmmm. Here are two recent ones.

Headline (Boston Globe, Jan. 20, 2008)  “As gentrification spreads, rich, poor seek a balance”.  
The article stated that “the developers of a new boutique hotel have encouraged the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans next door to rebrand itself a “center” even offering to pay for a new sign.”

A shelter by any other name is still a shelter.  And the people in the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans and The Pine Street Inn were part and parcel of their communities before gentrification and will be long after unless homelessness is eliminated. 

One of the things I learned when I worked in the Affirmative Action Office of the old Boston City Hospital (“rebranded” The Boston Medical Center when it was privatized and merged with University Hospital) was that a number of my colleagues who worked at the hospital also populated its shelter. They had been priced out of their former homes in the South End.  The South End and Lower Roxbury used to have lots of SRO housing (single room occupancy), most of which disappeared in the past 20 years.

The attitude that people think they can eliminate the things don’t like about the neighborhood reality into which they come, reminds me of the settlers who moved and then eliminated the native people when this country was founded/invaded.  Must gentrification or development mean elimination?  The attitude that the negative actions of a few people from the shelters should indict all homeless people is ludicrous. 

I witnessed a similar attitude a few years ago when attending a meeting at The Strand Theatre in Uphams Corner.  Some of the new neighbors were working on a film series.  During the meeting they talked about how great it would be if they could just get rid of the furniture rental and check cashing stores that were “blighting the street scape.”  I told them that just because some of us didn’t use those stores, didn’t mean that they should be eliminated.  Many of the people in the neighborhood did use them and in fact needed them. These stores and the services they offered had been in the neighborhood when other stores weren’t. I was persona non grata after that.

The Globe article mentioned that the Ritz Carlton had bought a color television and spruced up part of a neighboring shelter to help keep the homeless folks from loitering outside.  The article didn’t go deeper – the fact is there are very few places for homeless people who do not have jobs to go during the day.  The need for day shelters is critical – perhaps the furniture stores, yoga an pilates studios, boutique hotels and restaurants could join forces and raise money for day shelters.  Perhaps they could create entry level jobs and recruit from the shelters.

Headline (Boston Globe, Dec. 20, 2007) “Smaller Mass. colleges court out-of-staters…Recruiting widens to the Sun Belt.”  Some of this out-of-state recruiting is due to the dwindling number of high school students – projected to decline by 10% over the next 7 years.  “In addition, one third of high school graduates in MA…leave the state for college…and while an influx of of immigrants has prevented MA from losing populations in recent years, students in those families are less likely to attend college.”

Rather than recruit more widely, why not recruit more deeply?  One of the colleges featured prominently in the article was Wentworth Institute of Technology.  Where is the will to cultivate and recruit immigrant students and students of color in the public housing development next door to Wentworth?  How about truly recuiting from the local schools?  Located as it is in Mission Hill and a short distance from Lower Roxbury with such low income developments as Madison Park Village, Whittier Street Projects, Orchard Gardens and  others nearby like Grant Manor, Mandela Homes, and Bromley Heath, Wentworth could recruit plenty of students in its own backyard.  These neighborhoods are rich in children.  They have populations of young men who need encouragement and guidance to survive to productive adulthood.   (Wentworth’s courses of study are especially attractive to males.)

Educational institutions should work to young people’s possibilities not their probabilities.  The cultivation and recruitment of these students should start in 5th grade. There should be, as well, recruitment for the formerly incarcerated, to make them able to have legitimate careers and reduce recidivism.  Financial aid in the form of scholarships and grants should be raised and advertised.

Last Hmmmm for now:  I was shopping in the Dudley Business District the other day, and passed the T-Mobile store which had two printed notices saying that “If you do not have a T-Mobile account, do not come into the store.  The police will be notified if you do.”  (The wording was more harsh than this – but this is the gist of what it said.)  When I was downtown today, I didn’t see any such sign on the T-Mobile store there.  It reminded me of how the Dunkin Donuts in Dudley Station has no seats (and hasn’t had any since the first few months it opened).  Get your coffee and get out is what the environment screams.  Thank goodness there are places like the Haley House who work with the neighborhood (even when it is challenging), who train local people for culinary careers, who provide a showcase for local artists, and who encourage people to sit and dine…in Dudley!  They are good neighbors.

These are just a few things that make me go hmmmm.  Now let me go see how super Super Tuesday turned out to be.

About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

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