While Boston continues to deal with mountains of snow andextreme cold, the city is also grappling with an even larger than usual number of homeless people.
One way they’re trying to do that is by reopening what’s known as the Boston Night Center, a downtown refuge of last resort for those who live on the streets. Dozens of people have been coming to the night center, which is open from 8:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. every day, to get warm, get a meal and sometimes get medical attention from Dr. Jim O’Connell, president of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program.
“The nighttime drop-in center is designed to take in the people who, for whatever reasons, won’t go or can’t go to the shelter,” O’Connell said.
one condition that O’Connell and other medical professionals in Boston are having a tough time treating is substance abuse. When Boston officials closed the bridge to Long Island in October and shuttered the city’s largest homeless shelter on the island, they also closed substance abuse facilities — including Andrew House, the city’s largest detoxification unit. It typically served about 100 people a week and often referred them to further treatment.
“Almost all of these people were in Andrew House at some point,” O’Connell said. “So some people would now be in detox with the hope of going on to further treatment. Now, none of that is happening. By the time morning comes, they’re so sick, they want to go and drink or whatever and they can’t make it to the detox. Even if they did find detox, there’s no place to send them so they’re back after four or five days. So that system has just fallen apart, right at a time when such focus has been on avoiding the drug overdoses.”
Some estimates suggest that Boston lost about 60 percent of its substance abuse treatment beds when the Long Island bridge was closed for safety reasons.
Read more at WBUR.org.