[Hpn] Hyannis homeless need your support
Wed, 17 Jul 2002 10:56:10 -0400
From: "* Blazingstar" firstname.lastname@example.org
RELATIVES & FRIENDS OF THE HOMELESS:
Please lend your support for the recently routed homeless of Hyannis (MA),
by e-mailing these officials:
Please let the above know you fully support the World Homeless Union's
Global Boycott for Homeless Rights called against Hyannis, due to town's
serious homeless rights violations, as reported below.
Your message addressed to the above e-mail boxes may look something like
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
I am appalled, at your mistreatment of your local homeless, and support the
World Homeless Union's global boycott against Hyannis until you start
treating these poor people right.
Your Name, Address (and Organization, if any)
July 17, 2002
No more beds at shelter
NOAH's director says all 50 spots are full and the winter policy of adding
extra mats won't take place in summer.
By JACK COLEMAN
HYANNIS - In the wake of a villagewide cleanup of squatter sites on Monday,
the only homeless shelter on Cape Cod is refusing to accept more people.
The 50-bed NOAH shelter is filled to capacity nearly every night, according
to director Rick Brigham, and five people were turned away after Monday's
sweep of homeless camps.
When colder weather hits the Cape in the winter, shelter staffers let 10
additional people sleep on mats on the floor, and 15 others are allowed on
mats in the foyer.
This allows 75 people to stay overnight at the shelter, instead of the
Brigham defended the decision yesterday, saying the additional people would
violate the fire code and worsen the problem.
"If you have an open-door policy, people aren't encouraged to look at what
they can better do for themselves," Brigham said. "They know they have a
place to crash and they might not be making better choices."
In response to the town's actions, the Salvation Army Center opened its
doors Monday night to 15 people without shelter, according to Salvation
Maj. Norma Higbee.
The Salvation Army Center, at North and Winter streets next to the NOAH
shelter, is open to the homeless from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. A noon
meal, workshops, support groups and information about job openings are
provided, Higbee said.
The Salvation Army does have an overnight program for the homeless that is
coordinated with the Living Hope Family Church in Hyannis. That program
provides shelter for the homeless on Friday nights during the off-season.
Salvation Army board to meet
The Salvation Army's advisory board will hold an unscheduled meeting at 8
this morning to discuss homelessness in the area, Higbee said.
The change in policy to allow for overnight guests was for Monday night
only, Higbee said, since the center is not prepared to handle an influx of
transients every night.
All five of those turned away Monday night from NOAH shelter, Brigham said,
were "off-Cape people, and we are prioritizing for on-Cape people."
Transients are also routinely turned away, Brigham said, for disruptive
behavior, intoxication or if banned from the shelter for past problems.
At a press conference yesterday, Town Manager John Klimm forcefully
his decision to order the sweep.
Klimm said he received a phone call from a resident who told him, "This is
the first time that we know of in the last decade that someone has done
something for this population."
"There has been some suggestion that what we have done is inhumane," Klimm
said. "I would suggest that a policy, an official policy, by either the
or the human services committee of letting human beings live in the woods,
with no sewerage, and no services, and no hope for the future - it's not a
"I will debate any human services advocate and anyone else on that matter,"
Residents' complaints frequent
The town has a right, Klimm said, to enforce its ordinances, which prohibit
overnight camping and public defecation and urination.
Complaints about the problem had become so frequent, Klimm said, that he
needed to respond.
Advocates for the homeless have complained that the town acted prematurely,
ahead of a less aggressive approach planned for later this summer.
"People need community and they need purpose," said Judy Best-Lavigniac,
executive director of the Duffy Health Center. The center provides medical,
dental, mental health and substance abuse services to the homeless.
"Once they are sober, they need something to do," Best-Lavigniac said.
"Otherwise they will go back out to the camps and the streets with people
who are still addicted."
Human services advocates maintain that the vast majority of transients
suffer from poor mental health and substance abuse problems.
Best-Lavigniac cited a May 2002 article in the American Journal of Public
Health stating that homelessness grew by 13 percent in the United States in
the last year.
In May 2001, the staff at the Duffy center on Park Street in Hyannis saw
different people for services, she said. A year later, with the staff
growing from 21 to 28 employees, the number of people served had nearly
doubled to 593.
Barnstable police Sgt. Sean Sweeney said police have not received any
complaints from residents or business owners upset that homeless people had
shifted to other sites where they were not wanted.
"Most everyone who has spoken to me has been thrilled," Sweeney said.
"People were just fed up."
Squatter sites near school
Barnstable Town Council President Gary Blazis said he supported Klimm's
decision and cited the example of a local resident who complained at a
council meeting "that he could no longer have his child play in Hyannis"
of concern for his child's safety.
"What a shame that people who live in Hyannis around the (Grade 5 School)
ballfield can't allow their children to go down there and play for fear for
their life," Blazis said.
Two of the squatter sites were near the Grade 5 School and McKeon Field,
where the Hyannis Mets play their home games.
Town Councilor Gary Brown of Hyannis said a resident had likened the action
to "a form of tough love," to force people "out of these really nasty
Barnstable Department of Public Works employees hauled nearly 11/2 tons of
trash from eight sites to the Yarmouth transfer station during the sweep.
Transients were warned not to return to the sites, nearly all of which are
on town-owned property. Police are also cracking down on public drunkenness
as part of the new strategy.
Not a hopeless condition
A formerly homeless woman named Michelle, who asked that only her first
be used, said some people think homelessness is a hopeless condition from
which few escape.
Michelle, a 34-year-old Hyannis resident who described herself as a
recovering alcoholic with bipolar disorder, said she spent 10 months on the
streets in the early 1990s.
Since then, she has received treatment and stayed sober, and become the
mother of a 10-year-old boy. "I just want it known that people do get out
Her parents have custody of the boy, Michelle said, "but I still raise
She is getting ready to begin work at a coffee shop on Monday, after her
last attempt at employment in a local pizza restaurant two years ago ended
after only three months.
"I want to be working, I want to be doing something," Michelle said. "I do
that knowing that I may not be able to hold down a job, but I'm going to
Best-Lavigniac said three people who work at the Duffy center were once
homeless, as were nine others now living in the area.
Brigham agreed with town officials that "these camps have gotten out of
But "right now more people in the community are aware of the problem and
involved with a solution than I have ever seen," Brigham said.
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