Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Uppity Street....

Ok, I'm about a month late on this one, but Yvonne Abraham at the Boston Globe did a fantastic piece on August 26th on some yuppie Upton Street (a/k/a "Yupton Street") residents who are afraid of three of their precious brownstones becoming part of the program for homeless people in transition from the Pine Street Inn. See

Here's where it gets interesting: The subject property is currently a rehab center home to about 80 recovering addicts. The addicts, some of whom transitioned there directly from prison, are moving to bigger facilities elsewhere.

The Pine Street Inn transition folk, however, are people who have proved that they can live independently. There are no sex offenders or drug dealers allowed. Residents can be evicted if they are found to be under the influence or if they cause trouble. There will be an on-site manager, as well. The Boston Police Department has had no complaints about three similar rooming houses already run by the Pine Street Inn in the South End.

Of course, with this being the pretentious South of End, neighbors want those brownstones turned into luxury condos (what else?). According to certain neighbors, the rehab center which currently occupies the brownstones came in about twenty years ago when the South End "was a pit." They say that is "no longer the character of the neighborhood. In fact, the neighbors quoted in the article claim that they will use zoning regulations to fight the project, stating that there is enough money and influence here that it isn't going to happen easily. They also stated that "unlike you and me," "its difficult to tell who these people are."

After I read Abraham's article and my blood stopped boiling, I wondered about the people who live on Yupton Street. Surely they must have noticed by now that they do not live on Union Park. Of course a sufficient amount of maple, granite and stainless steel has been poured into Yupton Street condos, but its still not that nice a street. It just ain't that pretty. Its kind of narrow and dark. It has beautiful Union Park on one side, but it also backs up to a block or two of assisted housing (and, horror of horrors, poor people). Yupton Street residents need to therefore get over themselves. If they were so fancy, they wouldn't be living there in the first place.

What is it about the new South Enders that makes them think they have the right to dictate what or who their neighbors will be? That's what suburbs are for. In Wellesley, you don't have to worry about a 7-11 moving next door. You don't have to worry about ex-cons living across the street. You don't have to worry about the homeless-in-transition going about their business. You don't have to worry about an elementary school building a soccer field over your (well, actually their) parking spaces. You can't homogenize a city. Diversity is what makes it special.

Then there's the whole issue of the homeless people in transition. These are people who have proven themselves in the face of extreme adversity. A Pine Street spokeswoman sums it up: Why would these people want to get booted out? Being homeless is no picnic and these are people who want to re-start their lives in a positive way. Of course they might not be the types of people who swoon over the new Pottery Barn catalog ("I'm painting my foyer cranberry!"). They might not prance down Waltham Street with a designer shopping bag holding an over-priced heirloom tomato. They probably don't own Uggs and probably won't be seen waiting in line at Stella in a plaid Burberry scarf. They also probably aren't the types of people who drunkenly scream out a window on Waltham Street at 3am. They probably aren't the types who run up and down a hallway screaming at 3am or blasting their stereos out the window at said time. They probably wouldn't sneer and make unevolved comments at a stack of gay newspapers in their lobby. I have witnessed all of these behaviors in the South End in the last two or three years, leaving my senses fighting for the title of most repulsed. As far as I'm concerned, there could be worse people to have on one's street.