Guest Op-Ed: Beacon Hill Should Roll Out the Welcome Mat for Women’s Lunch Place

 By City Councilor Sharon Durkan

Recent conversations at my office hours with residents of the North Slope have me thinking about what makes Beacon Hill a home desired by so many.

When searching for a home, we all have our own preferences, but I think we all share the desire for comfort, safety, and community in whichever place we choose to call home.

As residents of Beacon Hill, we are lucky to have those qualities in spades. While there is room for quality of life improvements, and my office works to deliver on those, by and large our neighborhood offers us a green canopy to shade our walk home, parks and open space that foster community connections, and care of neighbors and neighborhood organizations that make living in the neighborhood feel not just safe but lovely.

Recently, flyers have been distributed throughout the neighborhood referencing the placement of permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless women on Hancock Street, which, the authors claim, would disrupt quality of life and home values on the street. I was disappointed to see a host of misinformation featured in this flyer and chatter on the Hill.

More harmful than the misinformation, though, has been the misidentification of a threat to our neighborhood. Is quality of life on Beacon Hill really so tenuous that the extension of safety, comfort, and community to new neighbors would destabilize those qualities for us?

I believe the benefits of living on Beacon Hill are abundant enough to share.

The residents who authored the flyer circulating on the North Slope have every right to maintain the qualities that make a neighborhood a home, but their efforts to do so have wrongly classified the Women’s Lunch Place proposal to provide permanent supportive housing as a threat to those qualities. The Women’s Lunch Place has a proven track record of helping women rebuild their lives with their day shelter on Newbury Street (supported by a lot of generous Beacon Hill residents with both donations and volunteer hours) and this single-room occupancy facility will provide the foundation they need to get back on their feet.

Placing a welcome mat on Hancock Street for formerly homeless women will not diminish the quality of life of current residents. Rather, it will allow this quality of life to be offered to more to share in. I welcome the opportunity to meet with neighbors and to hear from them directly about how we can maintain and build on quality of life in the neighborhood.

With that, there is one thing the flyer gets right, Beacon Hill does have a long history of standing for the development of affordable housing. So, where do we stand this time? Where do you stand?

I stand with Women’s Lunch Place, an organization that since 1982 has delivered for the most vulnerable women of Boston. I stand for the opportunity to greet a new face on my walk home, a face who has not had a place to call home in some time. A face that will call this neighborhood home just as you and I do.

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