Lack of affordable housing is a regional problem affecting Tewksbury, but Lowell is on the front lines
The Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance (MHSA) reports that approximately 1,000 hotel and motel beds were leased as shelter space during the pandemic. Funding for that program via vouchers to hotels ended completely on March 31.
Tewksbury has some unhoused individuals, and our waiting list for subsidized housing is the second longest in the state, with some 14,000 names.
To help address the problem, Lowell groups have launched a petition requesting, among other protocols, regular reports on the number of available shelter beds, trash pickups at encampments and short-term care of pets. Here are details on that effort; organizations and residents in the Merrimack Valley are invited to sign ahead of the April 11 City Council meeting.
Solidarity Lowell and Local Groups Submit Petition for Better Treatment of Unhoused Persons
Solidarity Lowell submitted a petition today to the City Council asking for better treatment of unhoused persons in response to camp sweeps.
LOWELL, MA – Today, April 4, 2023, a coalition of local groups and citizens organized by Solidarity Lowell submitted a petition to the Lowell City Council, presenting a set of citizens’ requested changes to Lowell’s Unhoused Persons Liaison Protocol, to be considered at the Lowell City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 11.
In light of recent events, aspects of the City of Lowell’s practices towards unhoused individuals have come under fire from a broad array of service providers, activists, community leaders, and residents (housed and unhoused), and the purpose of this petition is to outline the critical first steps toward successful reintegration of our unhoused community. The intent of this petition is to invite the City to focus on the interactions which are already taking place under the existing policy, and incorporate changes that will advance the City’s goals in a manner consistent with its values. We offer these suggestions to aid in the development of the City of Lowell Homeless Encampment Health and Safety Protocol.
After witnessing one wintertime “sweep” of a homeless encampment, Brad Buitenhuys, Executive Director of the Lowell Litter Krewe, observed, “We do not have the services in place to get everyone out of the cold if they choose. And until those services are in place, we are putting lives at risk,” (with these sweeps). Materials being used to sustain life have been thrown into dumpsters; important documents destroyed and lost; traumatized people rousted from the only homes they were able to obtain for themselves, and left to wander the streets.
These actions are inconsistent with the values of a city that has put considerable resources into providing shelter and other services to help fight homelessness. By providing basic services to people without a place to live, adopting policies that respect the dignity and needs of unhoused people, and pursuing a collaborative approach with providers and unhoused people themselves, the city can more effectively address the needs and quality of life concerns of housed and unhoused Lowellians alike. Lowell should not conduct inhumane and ineffective actions just because no one came up with a better idea.
The requests in the attached document represent a set of standards that incorporate input from a broad and knowledgeable coalition of Lowell activists, providers, and leaders, as well as best practices from other communities. We offer this document in the spirit of cooperation as an awakened community strives to do better in the midst of the housing crisis.
Organizations and individuals are invited to view and sign the petition prior to the City Council meeting on April 11, 2023.
About Solidarity Lowell: Solidarity Lowell is a volunteer-based group of community members of Greater Lowell working toward social justice by defending the human rights, dignity, and equality of all persons against hate and discrimination.
Learn more about Solidarity Lowell at our website: https://www.solidaritylowell.com, visit our Facebook page: http://facebook.com/solidaritylowell/ Inquiries should be directed to Chris Offerman of the Solidarity Lowell Coordinating Committee, at (978) 808-9809