Open spaces: Parks over people?

I recently came upon an article about Mayor Martin J. Walsh proposing $25 million from the city’s fiscal year 2018 capital plan budget be spent on schools, libraries, crosswalk and traffic signals and … open spaces?

What are “open spaces”?

Okay, I know it means parks and playgrounds, etc. I’m not begrudging that these places are going to get funding and deservedly so. I’m talking about all the money being spent on open spaces and yet not a dime on homeless, low-income services or low-income housing. How about, along with those open spaces, we also build some real affordable spaces? Or even better—addiction services? Or a safe injection site? Or better all-round homeless services, period? Hey, how about a city voucher program? Seriously, why isn’t any money being spent on services people need; don’t people matter anymore? Check that—don’t poor people matter in this city anymore? I mean, with a couple of billion, Marty, can’t you help a guy out who’s down on his luck?

It may seem like I’m making light of this, but I’m not. There’s something wrong with a city that doesn’t seem to want to take care of its own. Some of that money could have helped keep open two transitional housing programs—one that served men with HIV, and another transitional program for women in recovery, which we’ve just heard was suddenly closed with three-days notice.

If you ask where all these people will go, they’ll give you the usual line: “They’ll be taken care of.” How? Will any of them partake in that $2 billion? Or will they be sent to Housing First programs and warehoused or to “rapid rehousing,” which is suddenly the city’s new battle cry to end homelessness? This is where you get $4,000 dollars, which, in this city, amounts to first, last and security, and then you have to fend for yourself, basically. Of course, city officials will hem and haw and tell you it isn’t true, because that’s what they’re supposed to tell you.

You’d think, with the impending budget cuts coming from the Feds, that the city would be investing some of those billions in programs that are going to be slashed. Is Boston a sanctuary city to everyone except its own poor? And where does the state stand in all of this?

We’ve hardly heard much of anything from Beacon Hill except spending some of the $2.08 billion on open spaces.

I hope Marty makes them comfortable, because people will be sleeping in them.

[Ed. Note: A previous version of this article said open spaces were part of the Operations Budget. They are actually listed under the Capital Plan Budget. Please not the Operations Budget does contain increased funding for Boston’s Way Home—the mayor’s initiative to end—and other programs related to homelessness. Spare Change News regrets the error.]

James Shearer

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

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