law to commit homeless who refuse shelter proposed in Boston FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 8 Feb 1998 10:35:53 -0800 (PST)


OFFICIAL SEEKS LAW CHANGE TO GET HOMELESS TO SHELTER

By Judy Rakowsky, Boston Globe Staff, 02/06/98

In a meeting prompted by the deaths last week of four homeless people in
South Boston, the city director of emergency shelter services said more
needs to be done to channel those who receive medical treatment for
hypothermia into safe lodging.

Part of the answer, said Kelley Cronin, the director, may be to seek a
change in *law to give social workers the authority to commit people for 30
days of treatment if the social worker believes they are not able to fend
for themselves. Current law permits only physicians and police to order a
30-day commitment.

There are more outreach workers in Boston now than ever, thanks to
increased federal aid, said Cronin. But the teams of workers who go out in
vans each night searching for homeless people who need shelter do not
always include a physician.

Teams lacking a physician cannot protect those who refuse treatment, Cronin
said.

The four homeless people who died last week in a fire in a trailer in South
Boston had apparently been staying there for months, tapping into
electrical service from a nearby garage. Authorities said alcohol
consumption may have been a factor.

''When it comes to substance abuse, we're not going to stop people from
abusing substances because we force them off the streets,'' Cronin said.

This story ran on page C14 of the Boston Globe on 02/06/98.

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