Many municipalities around the country are large, sprawling metropolises that span many square miles. Metro Boston, however, is a mix of smaller fiefdoms that exist independent of one another, struggling with many of the same issues despite different names, different forms of government and different identities. Whether it’s affordable housing, job creation, the environment or improving public schools, the cities of Metro Boston have a great deal in common – and despite these similarities, policymakers and department heads from our various cities rarely get together to talk about how we can work cooperatively in addressing our mutual challenges.
Like so many other issues, homelessness is an issue that affects all our communities, yet there is very little, if any, coordinated efforts from one city to the next. Our homeless community members are transient. They often travel via public transportation from one community to another trying to get services ranging from shelters to meals and public services. We often talk about who are “Cambridge’s homeless” or “Boston’s homeless” when in reality we all share a responsibility to support these vulnerable individuals who frequent all of our communities at one time or another.
It is because of this shared responsibility that I asked Mayor E. Denise Simmons to allow me to create the Metro Boston Homelessness Summit. The goal of this group is to bring together policymakers and department heads from Cambridge, Boston, Somerville, Everett, Chelsea, Medford and Malden for four meetings over the course of the next several months to address homelessness on a regional basis.
This work will include looking at what each of these communities is doing to address homelessness and planning in do to address homelessness, where our communities overlap, where there are gaps, what experts statewide say we should or should not be doing and finish by issuing a report with information and recommendations on how we can work better together moving forward. This is the first time these communities will come together to address this issue collaboratively.
The first meeting will be 2 to 5 p.m. Oct. 27 in Sullivan Chamber at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. The meeting is open to the public, but as this will be a working meeting, there will not be public comment. We anticipate a public session at some point in the process. Please feel free to attend this event and share this information with anyone you feel would be interested.
Marc McGovern is vice mayor of Cambridge and a social worker.