Tag Archives: Triage Center

A harsh winter = homeless emergency in Worcester

By Gordon T. Davis

There is a human rights emergency in Worcester.  Homeless people are suffering in the more than 600 hours of continuous temperatures below freezing. The Worcester City Council’s Committee on Public Health, chaired by Councillor Sarai Rivera, held hearings on the matter February 23.

The Triage Center for the homeless, located in the Piedmont neighborhood on Queen Street, has exceeded its capacity daily because of the extreme cold and snow.

The facility is licensed for 25 beds, but some nights more than 100 people spend the night there. This number is not representative of the number of people who need shelter, as many people do not meet the criteria of the Triage Center or choose to remain outdoors.  One person who attended the meeting, Paul, said that the staff of the Triage Center was sometimes confused about the requirements.

The number of people sheltering in the Triage Center has brought complaints from the Shepherd/King Street Neighborhood Association which was represented by former Worcester City Councillor Barbara Haller.  Haller and I have locked horns before on numerous issues, but in this case I think she is right despite her motives.  She said the Triage Center was never intended to shelter more than 100 people on a daily basis. Forty people were acceptable, albeit a number exceeding the Center’s license for 25 beds.  The old PIP Shelter had 37 residents when it closed its doors and was replaced by the Triage Center.

South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) runs the Triage Center on the campus of Community Healthlink, a part of UMass Hospital. The SMOC representative, Charles Gagnon, detailed the efforts it was making to reduce the “overflow” of people to the Triage Center. He said the goal was to develop a single point of entry for the people needing shelter; this is the vision developed by the Federal agency of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Through HUD, SMOC has 50 units of housing, 100 vouchers for housing and 15 housing slots.

SMOC said it was looking at a long-term solution of moving homeless people into housing.

Gagnon also said the harsh winter, the closure of the Long Island Center in Boston, and the periodic mercy patrols by the Worcester Police have a part to play in the overcrowding. Although he admitted he should have included the city administration/council and neighbors sooner in the discussion of the overcrowding, he felt, at the time, the extreme weather and demand on the Triage Center would subside.

Councillor Rivera said the system is broken. Mary Keefe, the district’s state representative,  said she was just learning of the issue.  Hopefully, Representative Keefe will come up with a strategy that the City of Worcester can take to the State.

Councillor Rivera is right in that the system is broken. There does not seem to be the political will to resolve the underlying causes that make people “homeless”:  an economic system in which we live from pay check to pay check, a devastated human services safety net, the health issues of the homelessness, and the prejudice against even the sight of the homeless and “panhandlers.”

Although not a surprise, it is a disappointment that more people, politicians and Worcester political candidates did not come to the hearing.

I suppose a human rights crisis does not matter, when the people in crisis cannot vote or contribute $$$ to a political campaign.

Important Meeting TONIGHT, re: SMOC Triage Center!

Important Meeting TONIGHT (Jan. 4) at 6:30 p.m!

District 4 Community Meeting at 50 Murray Ave.

Tonight’s meeting is a follow up to last month’s meeting with the City Manager, elected city councilors, and SMOC officials (who are running the Triage and Assessment Center at 701 Main St. – formerly the PIP).

Please attend if you can and be prepared to comment!

Neighborhood meeting tonight, re: the PIP! Please attend! Speak out!

By Rosalie Tirella

Hoping there are a ton of Main South and D-4 residents tonight, 6:30 p.m., at the Worcester Housing Authority building at 50 Murray Ave. for the neighborhood meeting, re: The PIP reopening.

The reincarnation of the PIP, unfortunately, is a done deal. Here’s hoping the meeting, called by D-4 Barbara Haller, draws lots of folks to voice their concerns. Maybe they can actually get City Hall and the WPD to show them some respect.

People, agitate for:

A police substation at the PIP would do a lot to disperse the nefarious types who prey on PIP clients. Also, please demand the planting of trees, sidewalk repair, etc.

If you don’t SPEAK OUT, no one will hear you!

Bravo, Barb and Joe!

By Rosalie Tirella

Tuesday (Nov. 29) night’s Worcester City Council meeting re: the SMOC Triage Center was a night of broken promises, a night of dumping on the poor and powerless, a night of forgeting about all the inner-city/Main South small biz folks and residents who have had to endure the people who PREY on a place like the PIP – scum who have made life a hell for everyone.

It’s not the SMOC clients; it’s the drug dealers, the users, the abusers – all the hangers-on who prey on/will prey on the clients of the PIP/Triage Center. How can District 4 ever get well? How can our inner-city neighborhoods recover – and begin to flourish?

Well, at least we can say this: Mayor Joe O’Brien and District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller proved themselves to be class acts – people who stayed true to their word (they voted against the move back to the old PIP building – 701 Main St.)

It is heartbreaking that the end of Haller’s stellar – and I mean stellar – terms on the city council should end in a vote that broke her heart. She was right when she said Main South residents were not given the chance to voice their opinions. But – here’s the problem – unlike their middle class peers near the Anna Maria rest home (the proposed SMOC site that was shot down by almost 800 Apricot Street area residents), the folks of Main South are up to their eye balls in challenges – economic, social, etc.

Makes it hard to agitate for your rights, poverty does.

I grew up in D-4, very poor. My mom was a single mom with a minimum wage job. She worked 60 hours a week and tried to keep me and my two sisters safe, well fed and happy. She was always there at PTA nights at Lamartine Street School and Prov. Jr. High, but she could never take the time out to leave her HUGE RESPONSIBILITIES to engage in heated civic debates. I remember her conking out, quietly snoring, head back while sitting on the sofa, watching TV with us kids – at about 8 p.m. She was in bed at 9 p.m. – out like a light. She had to get up at 5:30 in the morning to begin our daily routine (school, lunches, her job at the dry cleaners, a.m. house work/breakfast) etc the next day.

My mom was too poor/overwhelmed to canvas neighborhoods, get ultra involved. Factor in my shit-head dad who came in and out and wreaked havoc on our little fmaily unit and the result: my mom was overwhelmed.

This is the story of a lot of families in Main South – a stone’s throw from the PIP.

Barbara Haller and Joe O’Brien know these stories/families and validate them – every day. They honored them Tuesday night by their votes.

Bravo, Joe and Barb!

Thank you!

Shit storm

By Rosalie Tirella

Re: SMOC Triage Center:

Worcester, we have a problem.

My heart goes out to Mayor Joe O’Brien, a decent, caring, person with a moral code who had to deal with a lynch mob last night at Sullivan Middle School. He was right to shut down the meeting after people went postal. All the cops stationed in the audience last night – a good thing. Angry, angry people who – when all is said and done – do NOT live next door to the proposed site for the SMOC Triage Center – the Anna Maria rest home – are on the cusp of doing something crazy. Violence may have exploded last night at Sullivan Middle School (a few days ago one resident told a woman he would set the Triage Center on fire) – errupted from all those lovely middle-income folks who believe their rose bushes and trees and cozy homes will be DESTROYED if the Triage Center is any where near their neighborhood.

These NIMBY-ites forget they are living in New England’s second largest CITY – not Holden, for Gawd’s sake! District 4’s Main South is in RECOVERY from decades of the PIP and all its challenges. I believe sending folks back to 701 Main St. will be a huge step back for a fragile inner-city neighborhood, where biz folks and residents lived/worked at only a FEW FEET from the PIP.

What do the NIMBY folks expect? For homelessness to disappear? For the agencies that help the poor/homeless to leave Worcester for some sunny Worcester suburb – with all their clients following close behind? Never. Most of these folks don’t even have $ for the bus, let alone own a car.

Where was Kevin Ksen, Cha Cha Connor and all the folks who routinely came out to defend the PIP clients? Most likely they feared for their lives … and Barbara Haller (their perceived nemesis) isn’t tied to this situation. So they won’t bitch.

Truth be told, District Councilor Bill Eddy is way out of his element. He has neither the brains, the heart nor the balls to deal with what’s been shoved onto his plate – a true, big city problem.

Mayor O’Brien actually has the chops for all this, but people don’t listen.

They don’t want to listen.