Arrigo Pushes Back on BPHC Proposal

Special to the Journal

Mayor Brian Arrigo has reacted “with immense frustration” to continuing rumors that the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) is considering a regional plan to allegedly convert the Quality Inn Hotel at 100 Morris St., Revere, into a homeless transitional center.

Arrigo has written a sternly worded letter to Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, executive director of the Boston Public Health, expressing his displeasure about the potential impacts on the city by this initiative. Arrigo has also sent copies of the letter to Gov. Charlie Baker, State Sec. Marylou Sudders, and Boston Mayor Kim Janey.

Following is the text of Mayor’s Arrigo letter to the Boston Public Health Commission:

“It is with immense frustration that I write to you today regarding continued rumors of plans your agency has for the City of Revere. Specifically, I am disappointed  in the Boston Public Health Commission’s operations, communications, and accountability measures—or lack thereof—as they concern its “regional” plan to address the disaster on Melnea Cass Boulevard by allegedly converting the Quality Inn Hotel at 100 Morris Street, Revere, to a homeless transitional center. I am deeply concerned about the chaotic nature of dis-information and have lost all confidence in the Boston Public Health Commission to thoughtfully execute on an issue of such regional public importance. People experiencing homelessness deserve the resources and intervention efforts necessary for them to lead stable, fulfilling lives. Unfortunately, the actions taken by the BPHC thus far place the City of Revere’s commitment to these neighbors in jeopardy while at the same time frustrating efforts for the regional collaboration necessary to combat this regional crisis.

Given the immense challenges of supporting a population marginalized by high rates of substance use disorder, mental health challenges, and trauma, every public health measure concerning the unhoused ought to establish clear lines of communication and readiness protocols with all involved stakeholders. The BPHC has failed to establish these relationships at the onset of their initiative. The City of Revere was first made aware of the BPHC’s plans for the Quality Inn through a voicemail left to our Substance Use Disorder and Homelessness Initiatives SUDI Office on August 30 by a recovery coach with Eliot Community Human Services. With no prior notice whatsoever, we were taken aback by the message’s announcement that the Quality Inn allegedly would begin operating imminently as a homeless transitional center with over 150 beds. At this point, I do not even know how many beds BPHC is contemplating. Over the last three weeks we have been told different numbers by different members of this collaboration. I have heard 156, 30, 60 and 160 but I still have not received anything in writing. Simply put, the level of disorganization from BPHC regarding this effort is appalling. 

With concern over the preparedness of our first responders and our Health and Human Services Division as well as the regulatory procedures completely ignored by BPHC, we made repeated attempts to connect with BPHC, the City of Boston’s Office of Recovery Services, and Eliot. At this point it is clear that our hopes of an organized plan of action would reveal itself have been dashed by the BPHC’s inability to produce contingency and operational documentation that ought to come standard with such a sensitive initiative. It is also clear that little to no planning was undertaken in advance of the relocation of unhoused individuals from Melnea Cass Boulevard.

The BPHC has continued to insist that the Quality Inn initiative is just one instance of a larger regional approach to the crisis on Melnea Cass Boulevard, yet they have not been able to provide my administration with other municipalities joining this effort. This information gap is particularly frustrating as I would find extremely valuable an initiative that bound several municipalities together in solidarity to root out homelessness in the Commonwealth. I only hope that this effort is not just focused on our Gateway Cities but rather a true collaborative approach across our region and the failure to provide this information is not due to surreptitious operations ongoing in other cities and towns.

Beyond the logistical and communication challenges, the BPHC has set the stage for fierce reaction against the interventions our homeless neighbors need, ultimately undermining the public health improvements we all agree are necessary. Political opportunists with no desire to ameliorate the overlapping crises that create homelessness will seize any challenge that arises from the poor, unprofessional management of this initiative. Consider the impact of an emergency at this site without the full preparedness of Revere’s first responders. Not only would the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors be at stake, but also the viability of the much larger reform movement. The victims of BPHC’s mismanagement and collateral consequences would number not in the hundreds, but in the tens of thousands.

The stakes are too high for BPHC to squander the opportunity for a truly regional solution to the housing and homelessness crises. My profound disappointment come from genuine concern over our unhoused neighbors, and we will continue to support them through both established partnerships and innovative practices. Unfortunately, the BPHC has yet to demonstrate the capacity to meet the moment and have instead endangered the progress we all hope to see for our community.

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