Former Mass. Ave hotel to become temporary homeless shelter

BOSTON — A former hotel will be welcoming 180 new guests starting next week as it transforms into a temporary homeless shelter.

Pine Street Inn secured a one year lease at 891 Massachusetts Ave., most recently a Best Western Plus, to avoid shelter overcrowding.

The people who will be moving to the location in Roxbury, near the South End line, are coming from Suffolk University’s Miller Hall, where they were moved in April during efforts to avoid overcrowding at homeless shelters across Boston.

“This came together very quickly. We need to be out of the dorms within the next week or so,” explained Pine Street spokeswoman Barbara Trevisan. “We’re also competing with universities who are bringing students back and also looking at hotels.”

Boston 25 News heard from several neighbors in the South End who are not pleased by the decision to move new concentration of homeless people into the area.

The new temporary shelter is only about a mile away from Pine Street Inn’s shelter on Harrison Avenue. However, neighbors say its location on Mass. Ave makes a big difference.

The area, that’s still referred to by many as “Methadone Mile,” is known for ongoing issues involving open drug use.

“The Pine Street Inn guests have shown the ability and desire to stay clean and away from temptations at Mass and [Melnea] Cass, now you are bringing them back into the open-air drug market,” said neighbor Andy Brand.

Andy Brand and other residents Boston 25 News spoke with said they felt blindsided by Pine Street Inn’s announcement, with no opportunity for public input.

“The city promised decentralization of services. I don’t think a single service has been removed, and now they’re going to be adding 200 more people into the neighborhood,” explained Brand. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Pine Street Inn assuring neighbors that the new temporary shelter will have 24 staffing and security.

Advocates for Boston’s homeless population describe it as the best outcome they could’ve hoped for. “Had Pine Street not been able to find something like this, it would’ve been really difficult to bring people back and not feel like we were putting them in some health risk,” said Dr. Jim O’Connell, president of Boston Health Care for the Homeless program.

Pine Street Inn made national headlines back in early April when 36% of guests tested positive for COVID-19, which translated into a total of 146 cases. Pine Street’s current positive case rate is 2%.