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Months late, city opens new home for addiction programs

Guests toured the Mattapan facility on Friday.Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

New security cameras are in place, along with new plumbing, heating, and electrical systems. The floors have been redone with vinyl tiles, the leaky roof repaired, and the walls repainted.

Months after city officials said it would be ready, the old city building in Mattapan will become home this month to addiction recovery and prisoner reentry programs that were closed in October when the city abruptly condemned a bridge leading to their former home on Long Island. City officials had said the stately brick building on River Street, which will provide about 75 beds to former inmates and drug addicts, would be finished in November.


The delay has meant some of the city’s most vulnerable residents have gone six months without vital services. And the building’s opening comes a week after city officials acknowledged they would need several months to complete another new shelter on Southampton Street for hundreds of homeless people who also lived on Long Island.

An old city building on River Street in Mattapan will provide about 75 beds to former inmates and drug addicts.Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

The city has not managed to find space for other addiction treatment programs that provided services to about 150 others who also lived on the refuge in Boston Harbor.

Friday, however, few were dwelling on the delays.

With balloons festooning the entrance of the building, city officials heralded its reopening. The building will provide refuge to 30 ex-convicts for up to 90 days in the city’s Wyman Community Reentry Program. About 45 addicts in recovery will receive treatment for up to a month in the city’s Transitions Program.

“This is a time of rebirth and coming out of the ashes for us,” Felix G. Arroyo, the city’s chief of Health and Human Services, told scores of city workers and others who attended a ceremony to mark the reopening of the programs. “This means 75 people will very soon have a place that will support them in turning their lives around.”


He and others said the delays were the result of more work than expected to renovate the building. But they also said the delays were needed to give time to consult neighbors and local representatives.

Indeed, some were dismayed last fall when they learned of the city’s plans to reopen the building in Mattapan, which until several years ago was home to an array of similar services.

City Councilor Charles C. Yancey said he was eventually won over by promises from Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

Former substance abuser David Devereaux spoke Friday during an event at the Mattapan facility.Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

“Mayor Walsh said he would discontinue the operations there if the community felt there were some major problems,” Yancey said. “He said it would be shut down immediately.”

State Representative Russell E. Holmes, a Democrat who represents Mattapan, said his concerns have also been addressed.

“I just want to make sure now that the city and state follow up with the commitments they have made to the community,” Holmes said.

He said some of his constituents have worried about safety and they want to ensure the city would keep close tabs on the programs.

“As long as the programs stay true to their nature, I don’t have concerns,” Holmes said.

Melina Schuler, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said Walsh would monitor the programs.

“The mayor is committed to staying engaged with the community to address any potential issues that may arise, so that the Mattapan treatment programs can remain available,” she said in a prepared statement.

City officials declined to comment Friday on the costs of the renovations, but in a document released last fall about potential new homes for those who had lived on Long Island, they estimated it would cost $15,000 to get the Mattapan building ready by last Nov. 1. Renovations began in October.


“We have yet to finish all of the renovations and have yet to receive all of the invoices from the services provided to date,” said Megan R. McClaire, chief of staff for the Boston Public Health Commission, which will oversee the programs in the Mattapan building. “As with similar projects, we uncovered a series of unanticipated expenses along the way.”

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.