On Friday, Housing Court Judge Dina Fein gave the go-ahead for the City of Springfield to evict the Warming Place shelter from its home at the old York St. jail. Seems like Monday night or Tuesday might be the last night for the shelter.
You can read why she reached her decision and what it means at MassLive. I didn't think the Open Pantry, which runs the Warming Place, had much chance of stopping the eviction, and it was clear that Judge Fein didn't know enough about the politics of homelessness in this city to read between the affidavits. In any case, she based her decision on whether "irreparable harm" would take place if the shelter closed.
The city now pretty much controls, albeit indirectly, who shelters homeless people in Springfield.
The Springfield Rescue Mission, which has proudly stood behind its principle of not taking government money, was able to reopen (for 36 sober, well-behaved men) when donations were made by the business community at the behest of the city.
The Friends of the Homeless, with much of its board appointed by the city, and which used to include the current head of the city's Homeless and Special Needs Housing Gerry McCafferty, has added 54 beds in its basement and is prepared to add more in its soup kitchen.
Now that The Friends of the Homeless has won the sheltering contract that used to go to the Warming Place, the city assured Judge Fein that Director Billl Miller would no longer direct his staff to refuse referrals from outside Springfield (that would be a contract violation). The message was that homeless people staying at the Warming Place had better hurry up and relocate, before the "out-of-town" homeless get their beds.
So the city says we now have exactly enough new shelter beds to shelter everyone after the Warming Place is evicted. The numbers look good but but what this means is that the city wants NO VACANCIES at any Springfield shelter.
If the city and the business community had its way, not a single homeless or poor person would ever be seen downtown. Not only has Open Pantry's Warming Place been forced out, its Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry, housed at two downtown churches, are also under pressure to move.
I'm going down to the Warming Place tomorrow night to talk to shelter guests. I do want to let them know that to the degree Arise can help, we will-- can't get people apartments, or give people money, but we will stand with people. I want their transition to other shelters to be as trouble-free as possible. At the same time, they have the right to be treated with dignity, to organize to have a voice, and to be included in the new shelter communities.
What will happen from this point on is not entirely predictable.