Social Service Siting Report and other items

posted by Mike on October 7th, 2005

The report of the “Mayor’s Social Service Task Force” is not yet public, but already plenty of folks in Worcester have their hands on it and are discussing it.

Worcester Magazine leaked the guts of the report yesterday.

Let’s look at what they said. I’ll comment in much more detail once the report is no longer confidential.

Here’s the background:

The [Social Service Task Force] was formed after the explosion of controversies and neighborhood uprisings* over the sitings of new non-profits run by such agencies as Community HealthLink and SMOC, which manages the venerable, wildly controversial PIP wet shelter on Main Street.

According to Worcester Magazine, the report asks the state to oversee the placement of agencies:

For one, the proposal takes city officials almost completely off the hook for controlling the placement of new agencies in neighborhoods. Instead, it lays the whole messy megillah on the state, recommending that Health and Human Services use its funding to compel them to toe the line. (The city and state are also called upon to inventory such agencies.) It also puts the delegation front and center as moral guardians by recommending agencies come to them first to vet their plans.

Not sure who “the delegation” refers to.

The report recommends the city have a “liason” on this issue:

As for the city, the report says, it should appoint a “Social Service Agency Liaison” to keep itself in the loop, but read between the lines: With the state in charge, it doesn’t have to be the bad guy to either neighbors or the programs they oppose.

I think that this liason is going to be the bad guy to somebody. This issue is so controversial, everyone’s looking for a bad guy. The trick will be to get the liason to be an advocate for the agencies, rather than a gatekeeper. We’ll get a sense of what this job entails when we see who they appoint for it.

Meet the new PIP:

As for the PIP, the task force report pretty much tells it to get the hell out of Dodge: “The PIP shall relocate with the consent and advice of the city to a new location and cease shelter operations at 701 Main St. no later than June 30, 2007.” Wow.

Wow? According to an editorial in today’s Telegram & Gazette, this is exactly the goal of SMOC, the agency that runs the PIP:

In the short term, downsizing the shelter is a key SMOC goal. (Indeed, that was part of the rationale for proposing a “sober house” for women on the West Side.) Currently licensed for 88 clients, SMOC aims to scale down to about 50 at 701 Main St.

[…] Ultimately, SMOC hopes to close the wet shelter at 701 Main St. and open a smaller facility in a more suitable location. Efforts to that end have been frustrated repeatedly, most recently when a promising Southbridge Street location was promptly shot down. The Research Bureau suggests Worcester State Hospital and the former Wyman-Gordon property as alternate locations, but opposition to those sites well might be even more strenuous.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that the Task Force report endorses what SMOC itself wants to do.

(This Robert Nemeth column traces this plan to a Feb 17, 2005 report from SMOC: “The stated goal has been to downsize the PIP shelter at 701 Main St. to 50 guests a night and open residential group homes in Worcester and in the area. “)

The T&G opines:

SMOC doesn’t want to replicate the PIP shelter in any neighborhood, but an emergency wet shelter always will be needed, as police officials attest. Its size can be kept to a minimum if it is used as a short-term intake point on a “continuum of care” that includes detoxification, addiction treatment and counseling, supervised housing with education and training — SMOC’s facility for recovering alcoholics in Oakham is one successful model — to fully independent living.

Right now the PIP houses like 150 people. And plenty of people are looking for short-term housing but refuse to stay at the PIP because it is so dangerous and unpleasant; they live in parks or on somebody’s couch. So if you improve the PIP, you might have a demand of 300 people for that kind of shelter. If the “main PIP” is downsized to 50 in the meantime, you’d need multiple program sites, a bunch of “Sons of PIP” spread around the county.

Next in the report is PILOT:

Get this: The report would even take the steam out of calls for a PILOT program, suggesting the state should pony up payments to the city in lieu of taxes. The city can still meet with each agency to negotiate a PILOT of its own.

The gist of PILOT is that social service programs don’t pay property taxes, but they do use municipal services. Everyone in the state pays some share of the cost of social service programs through state income tax, but Worcester residents provide some extra funding by paying for municipal services for the programs. Asking the state to pay PILOT to Worcester just spreads that additional burden to state taxpayers, too.

One good thing about the Task Force report coming out soon is that you won’t be obligated to read the Research Bureau’s report (.pdf file) on the same subject, released ealier this week. The RB report is sort of tedious until it gets into the logistics of how a city can drive out social service programs.

*Nice image, “neighborhood uprisings.” One of the groups in this year’s Columbus Day Parade is the Sudbury Revolutionary Militia, which sounds like, but is not, a Maoist guerilla army.


Other items

Thanks, WoMag, for including a blurb from Pie and Coffee in the “Blog Log” column this week. In the print version, it’s listed as pieandcoffee.com, so we don’t expect to see a surge in site traffic.

In Worcester, we only have one free weekly to complain about. The scene is much better in Philly, where there are two: Philadelphia Weekly and the City Paper. There is a sex abuse scandal breaking in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, and Philly Weekly honcho Tim Whitaker comments:

Catholicism needs to once again be symbolized by the priest who spent his life working in jails and in migrant camps, who taught on a college campus just long enough to teach this particular Catholic an important no-bullshit definition of social justice.

And by the legacy of women like Dorothy Day, who created the Catholic Worker Movement and spent her life caring for the poor in New York City; and by the nuns who work with the destitute, who teach in inner-city schools, who risk their lives in faraway places to bring relief to those who live in the shadows of treacherous regimes.

Religious leaders posing as compassionate representatives of Christ took Catholicism hostage in this city.

Pandemic Flu Awareness WeekIn honor of Pandemic Flu Awareness Week, we point you to Dorothy Day’s account of the 1918 flu epidemic.

These guys have a 470-word proposal that boils down to: You should observe Yom Kippur this year. That means a sunrise-to-sundown fast October 13. Sounds good.

Drifting far, far away from the purpose of this blog, we present: Caltech people on the web.

  • Cilibrasi namechecked by Lebkowski in WorldChanging.
  • Feynman reviewed by Dyson in New York Review of Books.
  • Grubbs cops Nobel action.

    Pie and Coffee contributor and Caltech alum Adam Villani comments:

    I explained things to somebody once that picking up
    Nobel Prizes at Caltech is like winning in football at
    USC. A USC alum may not know anybody who plays, but he
    can always take pride in knowing that he’s got a
    winning team.

Finally, in honor of Friday Ark #55, we ask the question: Will a stray cat eat mashed chickpeas?

Pictured is Sweet Willy, Mason Court’s favorite stray and the sweetest cat in Worcester, answering: Yes!

(I’d love to get Sweet Willy on an all-vegan diet, but my housemates keep feeding him cat food, and besides he’s a skilled and passionate hunter.)


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4 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On October 10, 2005 at 00:28 Modulator said:

    Friday Ark # 55

    Cats, Dogs, Spiders and ? every Friday.

    We’ll post links to sites that have Friday (plus or minus a few days) photos of their chosen animals (photoshops at our discretion and humans only in supporting roles). Watch the Exception category for rocks, etc.

  2. On October 10, 2005 at 07:08 Rahel said:

    Wow, what a gorgeous cat!

    I hope you were only joking about wanting to get him on an all-vegan diet, though. Cats are what is known as “obligate carnivores” — they must eat meat to survive. That’s how nature designed them. Cat food also contains a supplement called taurine, which cats need to maintain their health and which they can only get from meat. From what I understand, cats can eat a small amount of fruit to supplement their diet — but their diet must be based on meat.

    (This is my first time on your blog so please excuse me if you were being humorous and I didn’t get it.)

  3. On October 10, 2005 at 14:43 the Other michael said:

    Well, at least WormTown isn’t one of the Top 20 Meanest Cities (yet)!

  4. On October 11, 2005 at 16:16 Adam (Southern California) said:

    More on the Nobels, and back to the subject of peace:

    While Peace Prize winner Mohammed El-Baradei is famous for championing negotiation, Economics winner Thomas C. Schelling was instrumental in helping escalate the Vietnam War:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2127862/

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