Despite opposition by those who believe lockers for the homeless are a nuisance, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) opened its new locker service for the homeless on Friday.
“It’s important because people need to have a safe, secure place to store their belongings,” said Robert Long, program coordinator for the BOSS-run Multi-Service Agency Center at the Center Street Veterans Building, where the lockers were installed.
Three years ago, when fees were raised for lockers the city was renting for the homeless at the Shattuck Self Storage at Shattuck Avenue and Ward Street, the city put the program on hold and began to look for an agency that would sponsor the program.
“Finally, we decided to give it a try,” Long said.
Long, who has worked with BOSS for more than 30 years, said he understands the issues. The Shattuck Avenue locker program was plagued by people storing drugs, alcohol and weapons.
“People were assigned a locker and others were using it,” he said.
Options Recovery Services shares the Veterans Building with the Multi-Service Agency shelter. Options Executive and Medical Director Dr. Davida Coady says she has worked hard to keep the space drug-and-alcohol free for her clients, many of whom are just beginning the road to sobriety.
“I feel the money should be spent for solutions to homelessness, rather than making homelessness more comfortable,” she said. “I don’t feel people are choosing to remain homeless.”
The city allocated about $45,000 annually for staffing and $20,000 for the lockers.
Long said he plans to address the problems. The program BOSS is calling Lockers to Housing will be part of the continuum of services, designed to house homeless persons. Each person who gets a locker also gets mandatory case-management services. In order to keep the locker, the individual must meet at least monthly with the caseworker.
“People will have to have a plan for permanent housing; that is part of their growth,” Long said.
There are a total of 60 lockers, each about the size of a school locker. They will be distributed over time in batches of 20 and will be available only during working hours.
“We’ll have the right to open the lockers,” Long said.
Coady said she hopes Options’ protests and concerns were heard by those running the new program. “The police will help us, too,” she said.