April 2, 2018
Viewpoint

Worcester needs to aid homeless

Francis R. Carroll

Worcester is indeed fortunate to have a smart and compassionate city manager who is doing his best to help solve the homeless situation here, however, I believe the responsibility for solving this problem lies in the hands of the Worcester City Council.

The No. 1 homeless problem is more than 1,000 human beings in Worcester each night sleep under bridges, in parking garages and abandoned buildings, or in truly inadequate temporary shelters in church halls or church basements. This is a city government problem to be solved by our City Council members.

Our City Council controls the budget, and it will take money to solve this problem. There are solutions to this need. The council must listen and take action to implement a plan by the end of June for it to make a difference for fiscal 2019.

The No. 2 and larger problem of affordable housing and homelessness is a city, state and federal government issue needing broad community support to solve.

If the council can spend half the time they spent on the dog park debate solving the No. 1 homeless problem, then they will solve an important human need now. That need is for a building with at least 100 beds, with staff providing strict management and supervision.

There are at least 1,100 homeless in Worcester, including children. Almost 9 percent of those individuals live outdoors or in places not fit for human habitation. In the winter, the homeless, during the day, seek respite in spaces open to the public, such as libraries and malls. But the night time poses difficulties. For many, there is no place to go.

City officials announced a broad task force will be formed to tackle the problem. Frankly, we don't need another study group or yet another report. There has been enough procrastination.

Realistically, the problem of the homeless is a political one. The needy do not vote, and many of those elected to public office easily dismiss the homeless problem with little, if any fear, of retribution. There is also the difficulty of surmounting the NIMBY (not in my backyard) mentality. NIMBYs do vote, and they are not hesitate to confront City Hall. Abutters of a shelter should rightfully be concerned about who is living next door, but, strict oversight by center management can ensure public safety and order.

A permanent shelter does not need to be located in a residential neighborhood. Worcester has many vacant buildings spread across the city to serve the purpose. The city could partner with area colleges to provide a pool of students to assist the needy.

The homeless shouldn't have to seek warmth under cardboard boxes. The people who live on the streets are our "fathers" and "daughters." They are people, and we should treat them as such.

Worcester is a caring city. It is time for the council to step up and do what is right.

Francis R. Carroll is the founder and CEO of the Small Business Service Bureau Inc. in Worcester.

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