Letters to the Editor

Providing Additional Information to the Supporters of the Constitution Inn

The following was sent to the BPDA and Councilor Coletta.

To the Editor,

I read the supportive letter to the Editor regarding the Constitution Inn proposal in the March 28th Patriot Bridge, written by Michael and Linda Garrity of Charlestown.  We agree and disagree, and I wanted to provide additional context on the issue, explaining why 80% of those surveyed oppose this project. Like the letter writers, these are compassionate neighbors.

The letter states that “affordable housing is the single most important issue confronting Boston”, and the lamentable problem that “many people…are no longer able to afford to live here”.  Those opposed to the change of use of the Constitution Inn agree with you!  But do not conflate affordable housing with Permanent Supportive Housing. PSH is very different.  Permanent Supportive Housing does not require a sobriety agreement, or drug testing.   PSH units are for chronically homeless people, diagnosed with a disability–most often substance use, trauma disorder, mental health issues, or a combination. PSH residents are not required to be sober, drug free or in treatment. I have been told by the proponent’s security consultant that there will not be drug testing to manage drug free behavior. Drug use-in and of itself-is not a condition for eviction. While cori and sori background checks are part of the application process, some prior offenses can be expunged. PSH seeks to keep people housed.

Karen Lafrazia, the CEO of the Saint Francis House—a proponent along with the Planning Office for Urban Affairs—stated in a recorded meeting that “50% continue to use.”  In a published study, Dr. Jim O’Connell pegged the relapse rate closer to 90%. These facts surfaced after hours of meetings, extensive research, hundreds of emails to the proponents and public officials, and meetings with the Vine Street Charlestown police force. Drug use at the Constitution Inn will not enrich our neighborhood.

This March there were six fentanyl deaths in Charlestown. Last week, I comforted a friend of mine who was inconsolable. Her friend, who had been in recovery, just died of a fentanyl overdose. Charlestown has experienced 300 drug related deaths; currently many are honored in Peace Park. Even with the planned expansion of New Health Charlestown, there is no guarantee that optional treatment services will be accessed.

 Affordable housing without PSH, is welcome.

We would hope that the proponents could manage any PSH component of the housing they offer. Unfortunately, public records of 911 police outreach show that is not the case. 48 Boylston Street, a Saint Francis property with both PSH and affordable housing, is so disruptive to the neighborhood that there are online postings warning dog walkers to steer clear.  There are photos of needles in front of their properties. The police calls are frequent, ranging from misdemeanors to assaults, thefts, drug use, arrests, and medical emergencies. Apartment numbers are available, documenting that disruption and violence are not solely dependent on the nearby shelter, but an indicator that the tight management needed is not present. The amount of calls is exponentially higher than the two largest residences on the Navy Yard—detailed by public records.

Drug use and security issues, combined with the lack of an effective track record from the proponents are facts, not fiction.

Charlestown is a leader in the Boston income-restricted category of housing—far exceeding the city’s average. With donations and deeds, Charlestown’s Navy Yard neighbors support Harvest on Vine, the Dennis McLaughlin House (which was a sober home), the Pine Street Inn, Courageous Sailing, the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, and other non- profits that prevent homelessness or help the unhoused. And, the 80% opposed to the Constitution Inn who I know, would welcome affordable housing for young people, teachers, our first responders, etc., so they do not leave our town. This is not what is proposed at the Constitution Inn. The Project Notification form identifies 48 of the 100 apartments for PSH.

A note on the decidedly un-frivolous lawsuit, and I am not one of the plaintiffs. Charlestown was denied participation in the full Article 80 and IAG (Impact Advisory Group) process with the BPDA.  It is not compassionate for formerly homeless people to use drugs, or suffer mental illness, with optional services only. Nor is it reasonable to allow more drug use in our neighborhood that is fighting its own drug crisis. There are residential buildings next door—not a half mile away– that will be negatively impacted if the PSH population is housed, and with the current management. There are people of all ages and kids at the YMCA next door in a safe space now.

This is not easy. But what is even more difficult is that PSH housing is almost half of what is proposed at this property. It feels inaccurate to attach a label like a “reactionary force” or part of “a coalition that opposes affordable housing”— nothing is further from the reality. I hope that this information will provide additional facts from an alternative point of view. Perhaps if we all were able to participate in the Impact Advisory Group that other neighborhoods have enjoyed, we may have developed solutions to serve all of us. Sadly, this opportunistic process has been denied to Charlestown.

Tracy Iannelli


To the Editor,

I want to address what I believe are some mischaracterizations in a Letter to the Editor that was published in last week’s Patriot Bridge (March 28, 2024) by Michael and Linda Garrity.

I don’t wish to be critical as I believe their comments are well intentioned based on their medical experience and come from a place of caring.  But the way they portray the Constitution Inn proposal and the neighborhood opposition is misleading.  It is not surprising given that the community has not been given adequate information or have had conflicting information provided to us by the proponents as well as the media.

At issue is that almost half of the units are set aside for what is called “Permanent Supportive Housing” (PSH).  Please do some research as to what this includes as this type of housing is provided to residents who may have active drug addiction or untreated mental illness, or both.   There are no requirements for these residents to enter or be in rehab or to be in a treatment program.  I would refer you to HUD’s “Housing First” checklist for more information.

Concerns have been raised at several meetings with our local police department about this project. This is among many reasons we highlight the lack of a full time police presence and appropriate medical services available to future residents.  Our research has shown the number of police and medical interventions at existing PSH projects.  Charlestown is already facing its own drug crisis, experiencing many overdose deaths recently, and this project will only add to a community already overburdened by addiction.  Further, the lack of a neighborhood safety plan by the proponents is of concern.

The letter implies that the neighborhood is against affordable housing.  This is not accurate.  Please note that in the Project Notification Form (PNF) filed for this particular project, the project area in question already has 41% affordable housing.  This is double the City average and well exceeds several neighborhoods that are in single digits.  Within the Navy Yard itself are several affordable buildings. This doesn’t sound to me like a neighborhood against affordable housing.

On the BPDA website for this project you will see many comments by Charlestown residents indicating support for a true, dedicated affordable housing development or workforce housing. This is not an effort to block the building of affordable housing as the letter seems to indicate but reflects valid concerns about the PSH component and to hopefully have the proponents reconsider the allocation of available units to 100% affordable, not PSH.

The letter writers worry about “the reactionary forces and coalitions  . . . trying to undermine affordable housing proposals”.  I believe this is a mischaracterization.  I hesitate to comment on the lawsuit as I am not an attorney.   The lawsuit is not about the project per se but the approach that the BPDA has taken which has deprived the community of its voice and input.  It is not just in Charlestown where neighborhood voices are being squelched, but throughout the City.

What the authors of the Letter to the Editor are supporting is not the proposal presented before the community.  Please look up Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) and Housing First for a better understanding.  Hopefully, the Garritys can join us in supporting a true affordable housing proposal which does not have the potential for placing neighborhood safety at risk.

Kathy Elliott

Permanent Supportive Housing vs Affordable Housing

To the Editor,

There appears to be much confusion over the type of housing that will be provided at the Constitution Inn, proposed to be renamed The Independence.  Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) is a specific program where “Access to programs is not contingent on sobriety, minimum income requirements, lack of a criminal record, or participation in services”.  PSH has a controversial record in research.  Although there may be success in short-term housing retention, there is lack of demonstrated improvement in symptoms related to drug addiction, mental illness, and general well-being, as well as reduced overall rates in homelessness.

The proponents of the project, St. Francis House, and The Planning Office of Urban Affairs, have pitched the project as affordable housing, often omitting the PSH component.  One of three eligibility requirements to PSH includes disability, with addiction most likely being the overwhelming one. Only 4 of the proposed 48 studio PSH units at this project are marked as wheelchair accessible, with 1 marked hearing/vision impaired.

PSH units are leased and maintained at enormous cost to taxpayers and prioritize permanent housing over treatment and support. It is permanent for all who choose to stay irrespective of participation in rehab or job training.  It is not a recipe for better outcomes for those it proposes to serve, and research does not support the idea that it helps homeless individuals gain long-term independence.  To read the research and learn more, please visit www.charlestownvoice.com.

Karen DiPietro

Differentiate Between Affordable Housing and PSH

To the Editor,

The March 28 edition of your newspaper includes a letter to the editor (copied to BPDA and Councilor Coletta) explaining the letter-writers’ “strong support” for the Constitution Inn project.  I was hoping to read WHY, but instead realized quickly that once again people are confused and conflating “affordable” housing and Permanent Supportive Housing — in fact, they never even mention PSH.  The letter writers state that “affordable housing is the single most important issue confronting Boston” and lament that “Many people, the young especially, are no longer able to afford to live in Boston.”  The letter writers worry about “the reactionary forces and coalitions  . . . trying to undermine affordable housing proposals”

The letter writers should be informed that those of us who oppose the project are not against affordable housing, which is only one-half of the Constitution Inn project.  I remain amazed that people do not differentiate between affordable housing and PSH.  I for one would welcome all 100 units of affordable housing at the Constitution Inn, so our young people, our teachers, our first responders, etc. can afford to live in Charlestown.  But that is not the approved proposal for the Constitution Inn.

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