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‘Where do you want us to go?’ Homeless in the South End speak out

Steve Hescock, 42, stood outside Convenience Plus on Massachusetts Avenue on Friday. “We don’t know what to do,” he said. “Where do you want us to go?”
Steve Hescock, 42, stood outside Convenience Plus on Massachusetts Avenue on Friday. “We don’t know what to do,” he said. “Where do you want us to go?”Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Steve Hescock, 42, is a man on the move.

On Friday morning he leaned his blue Mongoose bike against a pole at the corner of Worcester Square and Harrison Avenue. He said the police have been questioning him and others in the area, asking them where they’re going, and telling them to move along.

“We were all down on Southampton Street and they pushed us up towards this way, and now Boston Medical Center wants us outta here,” he said.

“We don’t know what to do. Where do you want us to go?”

In the city’s South End, residents say they’ve seen an influx of homeless people and drug users in recent months. Homeless people have long been in the area, especially since 2014 when the city shut down the Long Island shelter and treatment program and the city moved some services to the neighborhood. But residents say this summer is different, with the homeless moving farther north from the Massachusetts Avenue, Melnea Cass Boulevard, and Albany Street areas where they have traditionally gathered near Boston Medical Center and the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program.

Homeless people interviewed on the street Friday said they simply had no other options.

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Hescock lamented the loss of the programs at Long Island, which used to provide beds for 1,000 people.

“If they want us out of here so bad, how hard is it to throw a bridge up?” he said. “It would help 100 percent. It would take everybody off of Mass. Ave. – mostly. Mass Ave. will always be Methadone Mile, but it would clear out 600-700 people when the buses take everybody over there.”

Hescock said the shelter at Long Island was much better than the other shelters he’s been in. It was spacious and had a nice cafeteria, he said.

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Hescock was dressed in Nike shorts, a gray T-shirt with the word “BOSTON” emblazoned on his chest, and a camouflage-style Boston Bruins cap. He suffers from cellulitis, and his legs were sunburned.

Hescock used to live in Chelsea and Revere. “My mom died in 2013, and I just had nowhere to go,” he said. In June, he was committed to a state detox facility at Myles Standish State Forest. He stayed there for 66 days, and would have stayed longer if he could.

Being homeless is hard, he said. Especially at night.

“It sucks,” he said. “Nighttime comes, and you just want to lay down, take a shower, and watch some TV. Just those little things are so . . . oh my God.”

.  .  .

Two Boston police officers asked a man not to loiter on the steps of a Worcester Square brownstone.
Two Boston police officers asked a man not to loiter on the steps of a Worcester Square brownstone.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Sheikh Bahauddin, 40, the owner of the convenience store at the corner of Worcester Square and Harrison Avenue, is caught in the middle.

He makes sure Convenience Plus is stocked with wide variety of products that appeal to his customers, who include doctors from Boston Medical Center, well-to-do South End residents, low-income families, and homeless drug addicts. He makes sure his shelves are stocked with bottled water that costs only $1 as well as premium brands that are more expensive.

He said he doesn’t judge his customers. He also doesn’t put up with anyone loitering in front of his store.

Most of the homeless people he encounters in the neighborhood are cooperative. When he asks them to move along and not loiter in front of his store, they comply.

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“Not everyone is bad,” he said. “Most of them are good.”

“They come here because they are hungry. They are thirsty,” he said. “They come here to buy a ticket because they have a hope in their life.”

.  .  .

Victor Franklin, 58, smoked a cigar while sitting on a stoop in Worcester Square.
Victor Franklin, 58, smoked a cigar while sitting on a stoop in Worcester Square.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Victor Franklin, 58, was sitting back on the sidewalk, leaning against a building and the stoop of a brownstone. “I’ve been homeless for 40 years,” he said. “I have no money, no home, no wife, no kids, no dog, no cat.”

He said he was born in Panama, came to the United States when he was very young, and grew up in Roxbury and Mattapan. He said he went to Cathedral High School in the South End and was committed to Bridgewater State Hospital when he was 17 years old. He said he escaped when he was 39 years old and hasn’t been back since.

Franklin was wearing Puma sneakers, gray sweatpants, a print button-down shirt, and a baseball hat with the word “BOSTON” written on the front in capital letters. He took a drag off what was left of his Double Diamond filtered cigar.

“I got psychosis,” he said. “They said they couldn’t cure it.”

Since leaving Bridgewater, he said he’s been to Lemuel Shattuck Hospital and the shelter on Long Island.

He said he stays at the Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center in the South End. He also thinks the Long Island shelter should be reopened.

Franklin said he has to leave the shelter at 8 a.m. and isn’t supposed to return until 4 p.m.

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“I don’t have any place to go,” he said.

Alberte "Betty" Mervil, 56, sat in her wheelchair in Worcester Square. She says she’s been homeless for nine years.
Alberte "Betty" Mervil, 56, sat in her wheelchair in Worcester Square. She says she’s been homeless for nine years.The Boston Globe/Globe Staff

Felice J. Freyer of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.