Boston’s South Station to open for homeless as ‘dangerous arctic blast’ arrives in Mass.
Massachusetts officials plan to open Boston’s South Station Friday and Saturday nights as a haven for people experiencing homelessness when a dangerously cold winter front arrives.
The move to open the transit hub comes after a Boston Globe article reported earlier this month that the building once let homeless people inside on cold nights, but eventually stopped offering the opportunity.
The bitter weather, which is expected to start Friday and continue through Saturday, also prompted homeless advocates to urge those living outside to seek shelter as temperatures across the state are expected to drop well below freezing.
- Continue reading: Mass shelters are preparing to help in ‘dangerously cold’ temperatures with no shelter
Wind chills drop to minus 35 degrees in parts of southern New England. Wind chills will be about minus 30 in Boston, minus 33 in Worcester and minus 27 in Springfield, according to the National Weather Service’s Boston Bureau.
“Dangerous arctic explosion on Friday and Saturday. Wind chill values as low as minus 35 for Southern New England. Frostbite can occur in less than 10 years [minutes] on exposed skin”, This was announced by the weather agency on social media.
For people affected by homelessness, the difference between sleeping outdoors and in a relatively warm environment like South Station can mean life or death, said John Yazwinski, president of Father Bill’s & MainSpring, a homeless shelter operator on the South Shore.
In a statement Thursday morning, the Healey administration said it would use its powers “on a case-by-case basis to keep Boston’s South Station open during extreme weather events.”
“We have been in close contact with local leaders and service providers to make sure people are doing well [taken] Providing care during the extreme weather, including the availability of vendors to provide transportation to shelters, as well as other resources, for those who request it,” Gov. Maura Healey said in a statement. “We encourage anyone in need of accommodation to take up this offer and spend the night in a safe, warm shelter rather than at the train station.”
- Continue reading: “Sunshine will prove ineffective” as extreme cold brings frostbite, forecasters say
In an interview with GBH on Tuesday, Healey said MBTA owns the South Station building and maintains a private security company on the property. The security company sometimes locked the station doors with tied garbage bags.
“We spoke to the private security company and they saw that the garbage bags had been taken off. They don’t lock the doors that way,” Healey said. “I will make it clear that if we face extreme weather, we will allow people to stay there overnight. From my point of view, it is a question of basic humanity.”
But Kelly Turley, associate director of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, said that proper tools to address homelessness in Boston would ensure everyone had access to “long-term, safe, and affordable housing.”
The state is currently unable to achieve this goal.
“So [we want] to ensure people have access to shelter and warmth wherever they turn up. In some cases it was places like Südbahnhof and transit centers,” she said. “For others, it was the overnight stay in emergency rooms. We don’t want people to have to go to these places, we want to make sure these are available as a last resort.”