A proposed short-term Resource Center for homeless and addicted persons in Bellingham Square will not seek to locate in the former Cataldo Ambulance building, according to CAPIC Director Bob Repucci, but will seek an alternate location due to some in the community who oppose the location.
“Here, we have a situation where there was support from many residents and service providers alike who recognize the problem and support the need for a Resource Center, yet we have opponents who recognize the problem, but have not proposed solutions,” he said. “This situation places me, as director of the anti-poverty agency commissioned with the task of bringing people out of poverty, in a dilemma. We know that the people best served by this type of facility are not likely to travel to the outskirts of the city, yet local opposition calls for that approach. The answer appears to rest in finding an alternative location that satisfies both needs. I believe that there will likely be opposition to any location, either from elected officials, residents or business. My decision to compromise on the Hawthorne Street location was based primarily upon the promise of elected officials who opposed this project to help CAPIC find a more ‘appropriate’ location. I will hold them to that promise and my determination and resolve to address the problem of homelessness for these individuals will not diminish.”
Repucci said the source of the opposition, which he said might be only a few people, came due to the proximity of the Silber Early Learning Center about one block away. Others were uncomfortable by the Center’s location near the downtown business district and what that might do for business, he said.
“It appeared the debate was drifting from the need for caring services, to the appropriateness of recipients receiving services in proximity to a school and the downtown district,” he said. “Of course, the target population is already located downtown and there are other client based services with similar missions in close proximity to schools.”
Repucci’s plan looks to create a Resource Center for those in the Square who wish to make a change in their lives. It would be available for 25 people at a time and would offer food, a shower, a haircut, clinical services and short-term stays for some. The Center would only act as a stopping point for those headed on to something more permanent, he said. He describes it as a pilot program that would last two years, and then be analyzed.
“It is generally thought that persons who want to become sober would seek this help, which would include a compassionate understanding of the problem and an opportunity for a fresh start,” Repucci said. “Before someone can achieve sobriety, they may need to address hygiene, hunger, obtain clean clothes, haircut, access to health care and a caring community. The Resource Center would be the place to receive these and other services.”
Repucci stressed that by no means has the idea been defeated, just the location whereby it would be carried out.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the City has no preference as to where Repucci’s Center would be located. The City is preparing to release two RFP’s for services related to short-term help for those in the Square looking to sober up and get off the streets.
CAPIC is expected to bid on one or both of those contracts, but Ambrosino said the Cataldo building project was independent of that.
“Our efforts were completely independent of what he’s doing there,” said Ambrosino. “We’ll still planning our efforts and hope to put RFPs out on the street this week…It’s very important we provide services to the people downtown who need them.”
He said the City Navigator, Rev. Ruben Rodriguez, has good contact and rapport with the folks that congregate in the Square, but his resources for immediate, short-term help are limited.
As an aside, a second navigator is still being planned and North Suffolk Mental Health is still in the process of choosing the right person.