A Pissing Contest

In the May 2 issue of Spare Change News carried a cover story called “Infrastructure Inequality” by Alex Ramirez about the Long Island Bridge, which connects Boston’s homeless to the city’s Long Island Shelter via a bus route through Quincy. The bridge is old and rickety and has been in decay for years. It is just a stone’s throw away from being “breaking news,” as in “a bus load of homeless people were drowned when the Long Island bridge collapsed this evening”.

Though we will not be seeing such a sobering headline, it does not make the end result any better. Earlier this month, the bridge was shut down and the 700-plus people who made their home at the island’s multiple homeless facilities have been scattered to the four winds. (Well not really, but they might as well have been.) Many are now staying at an old fitness center in Boston’s South End, sleeping on cots or on blankets on the floor when it is too crowded. A couple of our vendors who have stayed there have mentioned that the bathroom and shower facilities leave a lot to be desired. The rest of the refugees are literally scattered, some here, some there, crowding in on what are already overburdened shelter beds as the city frantically searches for a more permanent solution.

I am not going to mince words on this, boys and girls. This is all because of a pissing contest over who is responsible for taking care of this old bridge. Neither Boston nor Quincy could seem to get its head out of its collective a—- to make a reasonable decision, as reported in the May SPARE CHANGE NEWS. No matter how they try to spin it, it is what it is: a pissing contest or maybe something more. Maybe both cities just did not give a d—; after all it was just a bunch of homeless people.

Think I am misled? Maybe, but let us have a look at the downtown Boston area It seems the city is more interested in building more innovative buildings — in other words, more expensive apartments for the city’s two percent — than investing in its poorest residents, complete with that stupid replacement for Filene’s for the last 10 or so years. In fact, you can rightfully believe that the city does not even want the homeless around the area.

Quincy does not fare much better as they seemingly are not homeless-friendly in spite of the fact that they have one of the better shelters in the state. Putting a Spare Change News vendor there is like pulling teeth, and on more than one occasion the local newspaper has printed something against homelessness. Even former Boston Mayor Tom Menino reached out to the mayor of Quincy to come to some kind of agreement on fixing the bridge, but to no avail.

When the bridge was closed and people moved off the island, current Boston mayor Marty Walsh seemed pretty upset and stated that the bridge should have been fixed already. He is absolutely right. The new mayor has only been in office since January and has not had time to get its feet wet as the city seems to busy trying to wrangle a deal from the not-yet-built casino or wasting time and taxpayer money on trying to lure the Olympics here.

What are their priorities? Apparently not with the homeless. Now, those people are homeless again. Many of them were not even allowed to take their belongings with them when they were whisked away. This could have and should have been taken care of a long time ago, but because of a pissing contest between two cities, they and the already-overburdened emergency shelter system will have to suffer,

As I write this, it is pouring rain outside. A sad thought comes to mind: D—…..It’s not even winter yet.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

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