By District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller
The story of the PIP Shelter is long and complex. While there have been many individuals who will testify to its success as a safety net of last resort, there are many more who will testify to its internal chaos, especially before SMOC took over control in 2005. Founded over thirty years ago to provide protection to public inebriates after the decriminalization of public drunkenness, there are few who would deny that the PIP has grown to be an enabler and magnet for anti-social behavior.
Over the past twenty years my position on the PIP moved from a call for better management, to supporting an effort to relocate it to an industrial area, to a cry for closing it. I came to realize that a 150 person warehouse for individuals experiencing homelessness for a wide variety of reasons couldn’t be fixed – regardless of who ran it or where it was located. Over time the city council, the city administration, and the community have come to join in common voice to close this shelter at 701 Main Street.
During those years of pushing for the shuttering of the PIP, the question of “where will ‘they’ go?” was part of every discussion. My answer to that question was always to explain that it is not the responsibility of the struggling neighborhood around 701 to bring solution to homelessness, but rather it is the responsibility of the whole community. I served on every task force as we searched for the best answers. All of these efforts failed to close the PIP but they each served to get us closer by educating more people to the complexity of the challenge and increasing the resolve to do better. Continue reading The PIP shelter and what it means to Worcester