Specific experiences of unsheltered women are too often ignored
Mayor Michelle Wu’s plan for the area near Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard is a good first step. Let’s not stop there.
We have spent decades speaking with women who live unsheltered, facing sexual harassment and assault, illnesses and substance use disorder, and barriers to contact with their families and children. Unfortunately, the specific experiences of women are too often ignored in responses to houselessness and poverty. Many insecurely housed women spend years cycling through treatment programs, temporary housing, and shelters that fail to meet their needs for safety, privacy, and stability.
We support Mayor Wu’s current proposal (“Wu drafts plan for Mass. and Cass,” Page A1, Dec. 4) to provide transitional housing — at and as close to Mass. and Cass as possible. This would allow women to maintain relationships with trusted health care providers and caseworkers, facilitate access to harm reduction services clustered in that area, and respect life-saving friendships and communities.
Transitional housing must be part of clearly articulated and funded plans to help women move into permanent housing with voluntary supports to build and rebuild relationships, manage health, and pursue educational and vocational goals. To that end, the city and state must develop ongoing, participatory processes to assess needs and potential solutions that center the input of unhoused women.
Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights
Sered, a professor, chairs the department of sociology and criminal justice at Suffolk University. Russell is a licensed clinical social worker.
We need comprehensive state and federal plan to tackle root causes of homelessness
Re “Wu drafts plan for Mass. and Cass”: People suffering from homelessness, mental illness, and substance use disorder need stability and medical treatment. Although placing them in the Roundhouse hotel or in a temporary cottage at the Shattuck Hospital is a reasonable first step, we need a comprehensive plan to end homelessness from Governor Baker and President Biden. The root causes of the homelessness crisis, such as inequality, racism, and poor education, must be addressed, or the crisis such as what we see at Mass. and Cass will persist. Each of us has an obligation to become an advocate and speak out for justice.
Dr. Philip Lederer
The writer is a physician with a background in public health.