Tag Archives: Homeless crisis in Worcester


By Nahani Meuse

Two winters ago, outside the Federal Courthouse in Downtown Worcester. Photo: Rose T.

It has been 18 months since the Worcester City Council asked for a report on heating and cooling centers in Worcester. It has been SEVEN months since Worcester City Manager Eric Batista told the City Council that Worcester was just 60 days away from finalizing agreements on heating and cooling centers in our city. For the homeless, our seniors and most vulnerable.

And here we are, with still NO access to appropriate cooling or warming centers in the second largest city in New England, Worcester.

What is happening here? Where is the accountability? Where is the HUMANITY?

We have a rising homeless population being absolutely failed at every level. Loss of shower programs. Loss of detox and treatment beds. Loss of client-centered shelters. Homeless encampment sweeps. One year-round homeless shelter at capacity. No affordable housing options. New planned projects several years out.

Public housing waitlists pushing a decade or more. Dwindling housing subsidies. No cooling or heating centers. In two months we could be looking at near-freezing temperatures outdoors, and yet the City Manager has no plans for keeping people safe.

Dozens of homeless advocates and professionals continue to plead with the City for services – plead for funding and plead for adequate shelter beds.

Fundraisers have been held.

Properties have been visited, vetted and construction plans proposed.

Private funders have offered the capital. The benefit is clear, the data supports the model proposed, and yet the City Administration wants to focus on solely housing.

That sounds amazing, in theory; we would all prefer that everyone be housed versus staying in a shelter.

However, we know that is not realistic. The affordable housing stock does not exist here in Worcester! The affordable units planned are many years out! So where should the city’s unsheltered population live for the next 5 to 15 years while they await an affordable option?

Unsheltered folks are routinely offered “SRO” (single room occupancy) options that force them to live in congregate settings that are not well managed, theft runs rampant, and code violations make the unit uninhabitable.

When someone voices a legitimate complaint, they’re ignored. Many of these “rooming houses” log dozens of emergency calls every month. This is not a solution, these are trap houses that continue to victimize an already rampantly abused and overlooked population.

July 26 and July 27 the City allowed the Worcester Public Library on Salem Square and the Worcester Senior Center on Providence Street to offer space for cooling. Two whole days this entire summer that folks were offered a cooling option. That is shameful!

What about the 61-year-old woman sleeping unsheltered on Lincoln Street who couldn’t walk to the library or senior center? What about the severely asthmatic 34-year-old sleeping unsheltered at Bell Pond who couldn’t get to the library or the senior center? What about all the folks who “could” make it to the library but had to leave at 5 pm when it closed, although the sweltering temperatures would persist until sun down?

Does anyone care? What are we doing in Worcester if we don’t value human life and human decency?

🏘️🏘️Common Myths About Homelessness🏘️

By Lorie Martiska

Lorie. photo submitted.

Many people believe common myths about homelessness. These myths can foster a climate of fear and intolerance for people experiencing homelessness. The reality is that homelessness is not an individual problem – yet these myths tend to lay the blame on individuals. Homelessness is a societal problem and one that communities, providers, cities and states must work together to address.

What are some of these myths?

🏘️1. Homeless people should just
get a job.

According to the Council for the
Homeless, a common myth is that
“these people just need to get a job”.
In fact, many of the homeless living in shelters DO have a job or even more than one. A recent report concluded to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in Worcester, a family would need to earn close to $60,000 a year. For those who are unemployed, living in a car, a tent, or on the street, fnding and keeping a job is a daunting task when they are struggling with day- to- day

🏘️2. People are homeless by choice.

Being homeless can be stressful,
humiliating, exhausting and
dangerous. People would rarely, if
ever choose to be homeless. Some
homeless people do choose to live
outside rather than in a shelter because they have pets or possessions they want to retain and protect. Some people are living with physical, mental health symptoms or addictions that make their lives and decisions more diffcult. Some people became homeless because of a series of unfortunate events – loss of job, loss of family, or other circumstances. Regardless of the reason, it is almost never because they chose to be homeless.

🏘️3. People who are homeless are all dangerous, violent criminals.

Like the general population, the
vast majority of homeless individuals are focused on their own struggles and challenges and not engaged in violence or crime of any type. In fact, homeless people are far more likely to be victims of crime rather than perpetrators.

🏘️4. Housing or shelter should come
with conditions, like being clean
and sober.

The conventional wisdom used to
be that housing should be dangled
like a carrot to entice someone to be treated for substance use disorders frst. Evidence has proven that an approach called Housing First is far more effective. Homeless people can fnd stability and healing when provided with empowering supports focused on stable housing frst. It
is very diffcult to address medical, mental health challenges and/or addictions when living on the streets or in an unsafe and unstable situation.

🏘️5. Most people will cycle back onto the streets and will not stay housed.

Rapid Rehousing and Permanent
Supportive Housing, highly effective strategies that combine affordable housing with intensive coordinated services, can provide needed assistance to help people remain housed. A recent study found that Rapid Rehousing ( quickly housing someone who has become homeless along with supportive services when needed), resulted in 70% – 90% of people remaining housed after a year.

🏘️6. There is nothing I can do to
affect homelessness.

There are things we can do. Be kind. For those who are unhoused, being treated with kindness is a rare commodity. Your act of kindness could be the only sign of humanity they experience throughout
the day. Volunteer to help. Shelters and other programs for the homeless welcome volunteers who donate meals, activities, clothing and their time.

Speak Up. Advocate for person
centered trauma-informed supports
that meet people where they are at.

Advocate for community solutions
and vote for people who support community-wide and evidence-based approaches to addressing homelessness.