[Hpn] Selectmen want answers from SMOC about problem shelter;Framingham, MA;10/22/01

Morgan W. Brown norsehorse@hotmail.com
Mon, 22 Oct 2001 11:41:43 -0400


-------Forwarded article-------

Monday, October 22, 2001
MetroWest Daily News <http://www.metrowestdailynews.com>
Local News section
Selectmen want answers from SMOC about problem shelter

By Rob Haneisen
Monday, October 22, 2001

FRAMINGHAM - Richard Trank is tired of picking up used syringes, empty booze 
bottles and other refuse flung by clients using an Irving Street shelter for 
homeless people with substance abuse problems.

For about 18 months, the South Middlesex Opportunity Council has operated an 
overflow shelter, much to the chagrin of Trank, an adjacent Columbia Street 
homeowner, and others.

Trank and company say shelter clients intimidate local residents, including 
a large elderly population, and pose a public safety threat. Police are 
often called to the shelter for complaints about noise, public drinking and 
urination, and assaults.

But SMOC Executive Director James Cuddy said the public should understand 
that the shelter serves a valuable purpose.

"I understand overflow shelters are controversial and it's a difficult 
population," he said. "But the shelter saves lives. I don't think anybody in 
the community wants someone to freeze to death or wants someone to burn up 
or create a fire which is what happened a few years ago." Two homeless men 
were killed in a fire they started in a cargo van in 1996.

Cuddy said it is unfortunate that SMOC has to provide shelter to people 
drinking and using drugs but to not do so would be irresponsible.

"It provides an entry point or a portal into the rest of our systems" which 
include programs to get people sober, Cuddy said.

Selectmen want SMOC to improve the site and provide stricter supervision of 
the clients who stay at the shelter from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. The shelter can 
hold up to 40 people and Cuddy says about half of them are not under the 

Selectman Ginger Esty suggested at Thursday night's board meeting that the 
town assign a police officer to the shelter during its hours of operation 
and then send SMOC the bill, roughly $350 a night.

Her motion failed to garner a second and the board instead agreed to send a 
letter to SMOC asking it to consider hiring an officer.

Town Manager George King said police placed a surveillance camera outside 
the shelter in July and have observed some of the illicit behavior residents 
complained about. King said the town is trying to work with SMOC to correct 
the problems.

SMOC was supposed to attend the board meeting but had to cancel at the last 
minute because enough key personnel would not be available, accord to Cuddy. 
They plan to attend the Nov. 1 meeting.

Cuddy said shelter employees have cooperated by removing problem clients and 
they have tried to improve the trash situation in the neighborhood.

"We don't want folks who are staying there to trash the neighborhood," he 
said. "We want to coexist in the best possible way with the neighbors and 
the community and the town."

Cuddy disputed claims that homeless clients are driving to the shelter from 
out of state and hogging parking spaces on Irving and Columbia streets.

"It's really a place of last resort and if you had a choice not to stay 
there, you wouldn't want to be there," said Cuddy. He said the backseat of a 
car is probably more comfortable than the shelter's cots.

As for Esty's suggestion for a police detail, Cuddy said it is not necessary 
because the shelter already calls police when there are problems.

At last week's selectmen's meeting, Esty unraveled a 12-foot printout of 
police calls to the shelter in recent months.

A vocal opponent of the shelter, Esty said SMOC officials have been 
uncooperative with the town, a point Cuddy denies.

"If police have identified someone who has been difficult or has been 
causing a problem in the community we will not allow (that person) to stay 
at the shelter," Cuddy said.

Esty said a shelter that allows people under the influence inside its doors 
is not for Framingham.

"I don't pretend to know everything about addictions but one should not be 
an enabler," Esty said. "Providing a shelter for those under the influence 
makes the town an enabler."

Cuddy said the ultimate goal for the shelter is to renovate the property for 
permanent and temporary housing for the homeless. Those living on the 
property would have to be sober.


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
material is distributed without charge or profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**


-------End of forward-------

Morgan <norsehorse@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA

Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com/intl.asp