Letters to the Editor

Helm on Third Proposed Permanent Supportive Housing is Far Different from Affordable Housing

Dear Editor,

Charlestown residents need to understand what the transformed Constitution Inn could be and how it will impact their neighborhoods.  The reality of what is being proposed has been masked under the cloak of a project that will help potential residents and enhance the neighborhood location.  This cannot be further from the truth.  Helm on Third will not “blend seamlessly” into the Charlestown Navy Yard as stated previously in an October op-ed because this IS NOT an affordable housing project.

Helm on Third will include 64 units of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) for formerly homeless persons, a complicated population who may have medical, psychiatric and substance abuse disorders.  There is no plan in this living environment for robust, flexible, and long-term medical support.  A January 2023 article in the Wall Street Journal by a physician with long-term experience with the homeless population states putting people into apartments without the proper medical support can do more harm than good.  He stated research on poor survival and low housing retention if TREATMENT first is not provided.  Putting a roof over a person does not solve the myriad of problems this population encompasses.

I urge Charlestown residents to read research articles on housing formerly homeless people and learn more about this proposed project by going to www.charlestownvoice.com.

I urge Charlestown residents to attend an in-person public meeting about Helm on Third sponsored by Charlestown Neighborhood Council on Thursday, April 13 at 7 pm, at Knights of Columbus, 545 Medford St, Charlestown, MA.  Proponents will provide a presentation and residents can ask questions.

Helm on Third is an ill-conceived project which will do more harm than good to the residents and neighborhood it proposes to serve.  Please come and voice your concerns.  There is strength in numbers!

Karen S. DiPietro

Earth Day Celebration

To the Editor,

Please join with our neighbors and friends across the Charlestown community for an Earth Day celebration on Saturday, April 22, from 12-3 at Pier 5 in the Navy Yard.

The theme is “Invest in the Planet” and there will be many venues regarding what we all can do to protect our planet from climate change.

Many children’s activities, music, and refreshments are planned, as well as an opportunity to meet new neighbors, and friends from all around Charlestown. For the children, bring used books for a swap, and new book bags and bookmarks will be provided and an artist will be assisting children to paint on new canvas bags.

Harvest on Vine, our local food pantry will be accepting non-perishable food items, monetary donations and local businesses have generously donated raffle items. Many of our neighbors are experiencing food insecurity and this is an opportunity to help with this need. 

Please visit Pier5.org, volunteer and spread the word.

Thank you,

Ann Kelleher 

Regarding the Helm on Third

Dear Editor,

On April 13, 2023, the Charlestown Neighborhood Council is holding a meeting at 7PM for the community to hear about the proposal for housing at the Helm on Third at the former Constitution Inn in the Charlestown Navy Yard. It is expected that there will be many members of the community who will turn out to have their voices heard.

A large portion of the residents of the proposed Helm on Third will be housed in what is called Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). PSH takes long-term homeless individuals off the street and provides them with housing and other services. Chronic homelessness is a complicated issue and oftentimes the result of mental illness, substance abuse and joblessness. Many of the potential residents have drug and alcohol addiction issues and there is no requirement for sobriety or to enter into rehab or treatment in exchange for housing.  As a result. our community has concerns about the impact this will have on the neighborhood and on their personal safety.

The Charlestown Navy Yard is primarily a residential neighborhood with limited services, job opportunities and activities that would help ensure success for these prospective residents. Charlestown is a giving community but we are taking on more than our fair share of affordable housing. There is a lack of medical services; pressure on the availability of school seats in our neighborhood’s schools; transportation options are limited and, especially at rush hour, overcrowded; there is a lack of businesses that could provide appropriate job opportunities. Is this the best area and location?

As is sometimes the case when there are plans to create an affordable housing project and in this case, also Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), there is neighborhood opposition. The “NIMBY” (Not In My Backyard) label is then attached to those with concerns for the safety of their neighborhood and to diminish their standing. Before the NIMBY label is rolled out, Charlestown, being the oldest settled land in the City of Boston, already has among the highest population density of all neighborhoods in the city and has taken on more than its fair share of affordable housing.

According to a 2021 City of Boston report, the percentage of all income-restricted units for the City as a whole is 19.2 percent. Charlestown ranks fifth of all neighborhoods at 25 percent. The neighborhoods where income-restricted units make up the highest percentage of the housing stock are Roxbury (54%), Chinatown (50%), Mission Hill (37%) and the South End (33%). Those with the lowest percentages are Back Bay (6%), Beacon Hill (6%), North End (6%), Hyde Park (7%), the South Boston Waterfront/Seaport (8%) and Roslindale at 13%.

The 25% affordable statistic for Charlestown excludes the planned expansion of the Bunker Hill Housing Complex from 1,100 units to 2,699 units, an increase of 1,699 units. If these units are added, Charlestown would be ranked third of all neighborhoods at 37%; the same as Mission Hill. The Bunker Hill Development already stands as the largest affordable housing complex in the Northeast and is the fourth largest in the country.

In further looking at the City’s data, 27% of all rental units in the City are income-restricted. Roxbury again has the largest portion at 64%. This is followed by Chinatown (52%), South End (46%) with Charlestown ranking fourth at 43%. Again, this is before the planned expansion at the Bunker Hill Complex which would vault Charlestown into third place.

These are the facts. The City of Boston has a goal that all new residential developments have at least 20% of their units classified as “affordable”. There are certain neighborhoods in the City, Charlestown included as shown above, that have well surpassed this 20% mark. On the other hand there are neighborhoods who are still in single digits and are not even close to reaching 20% and have few if any development projects in the pipeline that address the issues of affordable housing and homelessness.

We understand the Mayor and the City are considering all options in order to tackle these tough problems. But Charlestown can not always be the answer. For more information on the Charlestown community’s opposition to this project, please see the newly created website at CharlestownVoice.com

Thank you.

Kathy Elliott

Member of Charlestown Voice

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