Town of Arlington
Adam Chapdelaine, Town Manager
730 Mass. Ave. Annex
Arlington, MA 02476
Arlington Health and Human Services
Christine Bongiorno, Director
27 Maple St.
Arlington, MA 02474
For Immediate Release
Monday, Jan. 7, 2019
Media Contact: John Guilfoil
Email: [email protected]
Arlington Committed to Progressive, Partnerships-Based Approach toward Homelessness
Town Requested State Remove “Bird Strip” Spikes from Overpass
ARLINGTON — Town government leaders in Arlington are committed to an integrated, humane and partnerships-based approach to serving the homeless population of Arlington and the surrounding communities and reducing the number of homeless people living on the streets.
A group of homeless people have long congregated under the Rt. 2 bridge near the bike path and approximately three to four people slept under the bridge regularly during the cold weather months. Recently, sanitary and public safety conditions under the overpass became a concern for the community, with acts of violence reported and debris, human waste and used needles appearing in large numbers. The town contacted the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which owns the bridge, to discuss cleaning the area and removing trash. Shortly after that conversation, the state installed spiked “bird deterrence strips” under the bridge which have the effect of blocking homeless people from sleeping and congregating in that location. The Town of Arlington did not request this action and has since requested the strips be removed, which MassDOT did on Monday afternoon.
“Serving our vulnerable homeless population and reducing the number of people living on the streets is a serious concern in Metropolitan Boston, with a multi-year rise in the number of persons living on the streets,” Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said. “There is always more work to be done and new ideas to explore, but the bird strips that were placed underneath the overpass are not the solution we had in mind. We greatly appreciate and value our working relationship with MassDOT and will continue to work with the state to address the issue of homelessness.”
The Arlington Police Department and Health and Human Services Department have partnered with the City of Cambridge and assigned representatives to its well-resourced efforts to support this vulnerable population. As members of the CambridgeHomeless Outreach Team, Arlington officials conduct weekly outreach to the homeless population currently residing in the Alewife area in an effort to build trusting relationships and ultimately provide connections to support and resources. This partnership began in early fall and has continued this winter. Each week, the team meets with individuals living in the Alewife area and is able to connect them with resources such as shelters, medical support and food resources.
“Although Arlington does not have in-town homeless shelters, we work with a number of programs in Greater Boston as well as group homes in town that help people take the next steps after a shelter,” said Christine Bongiorno, Director of Health and Human Services for the town. “As a community, we care deeply about our homeless population. We work with other communities and private and public organizations to provide responses that address the unique needs of the homeless while balancing concerns about public safety and litter.”
Arlington also works closely with outside partners on a grant that will house homeless individuals in Arlington this winter. The Housing Corporation of Arlington, which relies on financial support from the Town, has housed nearly a dozen homeless families and individuals over the past several years, and that program will continue in 2019.
Town leaders will shortly begin soliciting residents and service providers to sit on an Arlington Homelessness Task Force to meet regularly to discuss support and programming to assist the homeless population. The Town is also planning a public forum this winter to host an open and frank discussion of homelessness in Arlington.