Communities come together to discuss Shattuck

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

     On Wednesday, a coalition of more than 30 neighborhood and community groups from areas including Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, and Jamaica Plain, who have taken issue with the current plans to redevelop the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital Campus, hosted a community meeting to discuss these plans on Zoom and at the Brooke High School Auditorium in Dorchester.

     In June, the state provisionally designated Boston Medical Center and its partners (BMC Team) for the redevelopment of the Shattuck campus after the group made the only proposal in response to a Request for Proposals (RFP) released in June of 2022, which called for a minimum of 75 to 100 units of new permanent supportive housing at the site.

     On a webpage about the campus redevelopment — — the project intends to “offer an innovative model of clinical treatment and housing aimed at curbing the interlocking public health crises of mental illness, addiction and homelessness.”

     In a presentation found on that same webpage, the project is listed as having a total of 446 beds, 405 units of supportive housing, and just over seven acres of open space.

     Further, a June press release on the state’s website gives more specifics about the units and beds in the plan. The release identifies the project contains 326 treatment beds, 200 units of permanent supportive housing, 205 units of family supportive housing, and 120 emergency housing beds.

     According to the aforementioned webpage about the campus redevelopment, supportive housing would provide things like job training, life skills, counseling, and more. Also, the plan includes inpatient and outpatient clinical services to offer mental health and substance use disorder treatment.

     For many at Wednesday’s meeting, this plan was just not what people were looking for near Franklin Park.

     The flyer advertising Wednesday’s gathering gives a clear idea of how those involved with organizing the meeting feel about the current plans.

     One passage from the flyer calls the current plan “too large and unmanageable for success.” It continues to read, “While we support affordable housing and recovery services, we agree that the current proposal to house and or treat 850+ individuals with opioid use disorder and severe mental health issues would adversely impact the surrounding communities and our much-needed urban oasis, Franklin Park.  It is too dense for recovery success.”

     A significant concern brought forth on Wednesday was regarding safety in terms of how adding more people struggling with substance use issues to the area could exacerbate troubling trends already occurring at Franklin Park.

     One of the many speakers outlined the number of needles and drug paraphernalia found at Franklin Park since the inception of low-threshold housing in the area a few years ago.

     A meeting attendee in the Zoom chat illustrated the safety concerns, describing the number of needles around Franklin Park since the beginning of the pandemic as shocking.

     “It no longer feels safe to walk there with my young children. I cannot let them just run through the grass because there is a risk they can trip and fall on a needle,” wrote the attendee.

     Another attendee echoed the point about safety, writing in the chat that she no longer walks in the park due to an attack that took place.

     The density of people dealing with substance use issues in one area also seemed to be another concern for those in attendance. One speaker, a nurse who has worked in mental health and substance abuse, talked about the need to get people help in smaller groups.

     “I realized at a very young age, early in my career, that the way to help people who are struggling is often — especially with mental health and with substance abuse — … is to have smaller interventions where you can focus on them and they can support each other in small groups,” said the speaker.

     “This is a travesty what they’re going to try and do. This is not going to support that population,” the speaker added.

     Others in the meeting’s chat wanted more information or proof that a plan like this would actually work.

     “Show us published studies that this model works at the proposed scale,” wrote one attendee in the chat.

     Attendees also heard from several elected officials during the meeting, like District 7 City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson and District 6 City Councilor Kendra Lara.

     Anderson spoke about the need for a better community engagement process and voiced her opposition to the current plans. Lara expressed her hope for a more transparent process and to get something that is “right-sized” and works for the community. 

     In addition to hearing from some elected officials, those in attendance also heard from a member of BMC — Bob Biggio, Senior Vice President of Facilities & Support Services.

     Speaking about the plans, Biggio said, “Our response to the RFP was based upon the scale of the problem that we see; it’s not intended to be overwhelming to the community. It’s intended to try to actually fix the problem that we see going on in the community.”

     “This is a really large public health crisis, and we’re genuinely just trying to be responsive to it,” he added.

     He also indicated that BMC is willing to work with the community to come to a compromise. “For BMC, this is truly the start of the process; we expect to have a lot of meetings and a lot of dialogue,” said Biggio.

     Before the end of the meeting, the organizers gave those in attendance some next steps, such as signing and distributing a petition found at, joining a Facebook group at and writing to elected officials.

     Organizers also asked those to visit, which has data on the needle and drug debris pickups at Franklin Park and other information about the Shattuck proposal.

            Finally, those in attendance Wednesday were asked to attend the next community meeting about the plans, which is scheduled virtually for August 15.

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