The Band Is Still Playing On: Part 1

Yes, I’m aware that my title for this column is a play on the words of the title to a book and movie about the AIDS crisis, “And the Band Played On.” That film was about how, as hundreds of people became infected with the deadly virus, our federal government pretty much sat on its hands and did nothing, mainly because it didn’t much care for the group of people being affected.

I know comparing that to the current homeless and addiction crisis is a bit of a stretch. But hear me out, and you can draw your own conclusions.

On top of the controversy about the takeover of the farm on Long Island, there’s another controversy: Fox News Boston investigated and found that the buildings for the shelter on the Island are still operational, and the city is paying for it with your hard-earned tax dollars.

Now do I have your attention? That’s right boys and girls, you’re paying to keep the lights on in a group of empty buildings. And how much is the city paying for this? Five—count it—five million bucks, which, by the way, could have gone to a certain voucher program to help house homeless people.

It’s been a couple of years since the Long Island bridge was deemed unsafe, the shelter was closed and 1,000 beds were lost. Many of those beds were recovery program beds, and many have still not been replaced. The effects of those beds not being replaced are everywhere, but none is more noticeable than a stretch of road known to many as “methadone mile.”

The mile in question goes down Massachusetts Avenue from the South End to Roxbury. It’s lined with many treatment programs and, sadly, many addicts, many homeless people and many active users. For many years, the area has been a hotbed of controversy with local businesses, but since the Island closed, it’s gotten worse, with addicts getting high and sometimes stumbling in front of cars and drug dealers prowling around the neighborhood waiting to pounce on their next victim who comes out of a center. Saddest of all, there are people dying.

Of course, some of the businesses just want them to go away. Others, who see the danger, understand addiction and want folks to get help.

Many of these addicts were once getting treatment on the Island, a safe place where they could get the help they needed, but not now. Instead, the City of Boston chooses to waste your tax dollars on an empty island while people are dying in the street.

James Shearer

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

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