Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Thank you for covering an important topic concerning the challenges of providing safe, dignified housing for very-low-income and formerly homeless people (“Refuges suffer burst sewage and infestations, complications of keeping people off the street,” May 16). We would like to respond to some of the material to correct the record and provide additional context.

Pest control: Caritas contracts with a pest control company to provide treatment to all common areas of the building on a weekly basis and provide treatment in units more often upon request. We encourage residents to tell management of any pest issues and respond promptly to those requests. Central House at 820 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, is clean and well-maintained.

Case management: Caritas Communities is a mission-based housing provider that has worked toward preventing homelessness in Greater Boston since 1985. The property at 820 Massachusetts Ave. provides permanent supportive housing for 128 previously homeless men. More than 100 of the units are reserved for local social service and housing placement organizations who provide case management services for their client residents. With grant support from the City of Cambridge, Caritas provides one full-time, on-site case manager to help residents who do not have partner-provided case managers and provide service coordination.

Food access: Caritas leadership agrees that access to a kitchen would allow for healthier and more economical eating for our residents. When 820 Massachusetts Ave. was renovated with public support, the prevailing sentiment was that priority should be on maximizing the number of units in the property to get people off the street and into a safe home, which did not allow for kitchen facilities. Public policy has evolved, and subsequent development projects have opted for a slightly reduced number of efficiency units with private baths and kitchenettes. We are thankful for local partners such as Lovin’ Spoonfuls and others who help increase residents’ access to fresh, healthy food. We are engaging with the city to find solutions to this challenge for our residents.

Our staff met recently with councillors Marc McGovern and Quinton Zondervan about the financial challenges Caritas has at 820 Massachusetts Ave., since the current rental income cannot support the building’s finances. Caritas raises significant philanthropic support to sustain the housing and services we provide at that site, but more help is needed. We are encouraged by our conversations with the councillors and look forward to working in partnership with the city to continue to provide critically needed permanent supportive housing to our most vulnerable citizens.

Karin Cassel Mitterando

The writer is executive director of Caritas Communities