A coalition of residents from neighborhoods surrounding Franklin Park is calling on the Boston Medical Center to halt its plans to redevelop Shattuck Hospital into a multifaceted campus featuring clinical services, emergency shelters and permanent supportive housing.
Instead, the Coalition for Region-Wide Services Beyond Franklin Park says there needs to be a statewide and more decentralized, community-based approach to helping those facing homelessness and substance abuse.
“There is no doubt from anyone’s perspective that services are needed for community members, or family members, from all over Massachusetts and in Boston who have these challenges. It’s very apparent,” said Karen Mauney-Brodek, President of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy.
“The state never looked at other alternatives to evaluate whether or not the Shattuck site was the best site. It was an assumed site,” Mauney-Brokey told the Herald on Tuesday, before the coalition of concerned community members gathered outside an open house that BMC held in Dorchester to engage with residents about the proposed redevelopment.
Under the proposal, still ways away from being approved, Shattuck Hospital would be replaced with three buildings at Franklin Park that could offer up to 446 treatment beds and 405 units of supportive housing for individuals and families.
Services would be integrated, and inpatient and outpatient clinical services would prioritize longer-term care for people recovering from opioid use, with those in acute treatment accounting for less than 10% of the population on site, said Rob Koenig, executive director of strategic programs for Boston Medical Center.
BMC is spearheading the proposal with six other city-based health and social service providers. The Healey administration in June provisionally designated the coalition for redevelopment of the Shattuck campus, meaning project plans could start being refined.
“We are at the beginning of a process,” Koenig told the Herald Tuesday evening. “We have been provisionally designated by the Commonwealth, but now, we can go and have meetings like we had in July and August and also an open like this. We will continue to have meetings … in order to get feedback, hear what people have to say and hopefully be inclusive.”
Rene Welch, who lives on the border of Jamaica Plain and Roxbury, said an “open-ended dialogue” is needed, with many community members not even aware of the proposed redevelopment.
Shattuck’s campus has deteriorated since the Wu administration placed cottages there for the homeless in December 2021, shortly after Michelle Wu took office, Welch said.
“We have needles on the campus,” she said. “We have tents on the campus, in the park. People are being attacked. People’s dogs are getting sick from getting into human faces. You don’t make decisions like that without us agreeing.”
Officials overseeing the project say their plans would address some of the largest problems that have turned the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard into a drug-addled homeless encampment.
Many of the planned offerings have been successful at the current Shattuck campus for many years, Koenig said. But the project looks to further improve integration of services as well as housing security for the homeless, he said.
Residents in supportive housing would receive case management, job training, counseling and other support services, while being responsible for rent.
“The state of the proposal that we put forward starts with our understanding and assessment of the magnitude of meaningful high-quality recovery services that can help people actually heal,” Koenig said. “Today’s services just aren’t working right now for people.”
But the proposal is still of concern to Jamaica Plain resident Rory Coffey, who said he’s afraid of what a massive increase of housing units could do to the future of Franklin Park.
“The original Mass and Cass was never intended to be a Mass and Cass,” he said. “We are looking at very similar services going into the park here at a very large scale which could very well lead to a similar situation.”