Residents seek solutions to Everett Square vagrancy

Mike Deehan, Special to the Reporter
May. 31, 2012

A group of concerned residents say efforts to remove a group of vagrants from Edward Everett Square have been successful, but a new group of alleged troublemakers has begun to patronize the area.

About 20 neighbors, local business people and officials gathered at the Clapp House on Boston Street on Tuesday evening to discuss the vagrancy and the community and city’s efforts to confront it.

The meeting comes over a month after neighbors gathered in the same location to air their grievances over the individuals in and around the historic park that borders the busy crossroads of Mass Ave., Columbia Road and Boston Street.

The packed crowd vented about vagrants defiling their homes and neighborhood, with many residents recalling episodes where square-dwellers were found sleeping on private porches or relieving themselves in yards. Representatives from both the Kentucky Fried Chicken and Tedeschi’s stores near the square spoke to concerned neighbors and vowed to improve security and to help solve the problem.
Several public officials were on hand at the first meeting to express their own outrage and to offer assistance.

“Things have gotten better and things are going a little bit backwards,” said Eddie Debortoli, a 20-year resident. “There are definitely a lot less of the regular folks that were there originally when we met.”
Debortoli and others described a new line-up of panhandlers who have shown up since neighbors began keeping a closer eye on the park surrounding the Clapp pear statue in the center of the square.

“If we don’t stay vigilant, new people start to trickle in,” said Elizabeth Robinson, who lives on East Cottage Street.

John McColgan, an organizer of the meeting, said a walk-through of the area by concerned residents “made a big difference for several weeks.” City departments on homeless and substance abuse services have also been working in the area to alleviate the problem.

District 2 City Councilor Bill Linehan agreed that efforts by the locals, police, and city have had an impact on the square, but that more needs to be done.

“One group of players left, they didn’t want to put up with it, and a new group moved in,” Linehan said.
Linehan asked the group to call his office if they see anything and that he will be in touch with police.

“It’s got all of the elements that will make it an ongoing draw,” including an ATM, liquor and convenience stores, a park and slow traffic, said Jim Greene, director of the city’s Emergency Shelter Commission.

Representatives from the Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dunkin’ Donuts and Tedeschi’s store attended the meeting and were open with residents about what their businesses could do to help improve the situation.

McColgan asked the assembled business representatives if they would contribute to a fund to pay for cleanup of the park. The business representatives agreed to meet separately and respond to the request later.

“I know we’re a business, but we’re neighbors too,” Dan Whitney, KFC vice president of operation, said. “We suffer too. We’d like to solve this with you.”