As you know by now, Buster’s Place closed yesterday at 5:00. We went there to witness the closure and what we found was quite distressing.
Buster’s Place, which served approximately 150 people a day and 700 people annually, appeared on the Mayor’s mid-year budget cuts. Over 90 individuals stayed at the center each night, sitting in chairs. As many who use the center are disabled, and have nowhere else to go, this put them in grave risk.
The City responded only part way, by opening up 150 Otis (but a day too late as it was closed last night when people were put out of Buster’s Place), which cannot stay open year round has only 40 chairs and will serve only men, and must close down every nine months. It is set to close in June. The City offered up another center called Oshun for women, but it was already at capacity.
Appeals to the Mayor for mercy went unanswered.
Last Night 5:00, March 31
At least 20 people were filed out the door. Four of them were in wheelchairs. Many were elderly. Not one that we talked to had anywhere to go.
There was no one from the City. Not one person—no homeless czar, no HOT, no DPH—to assist them.
Many filed over to 150 Otis to try their chances at a bed in the CHANGES system for the night.
The shelter had not opened yet.
There were TV cameras everywhere.
One woman we talked to was in a wheelchair and looked to be in her early 90s. She was rolling slowly away, and said she had somewhere to go. When we asked her where, she clearly had no idea and was very confused. She had nowhere to go, and we did not see her in line at 150 Otis, where, her being female, they would not have given her a number to hold her place in line anyway.
Another couple had a woman in a wheelchair and her husband to care for her. Of course with the loss of Buster’s there is nowhere for them to be accomodated. She needs his care, and they cannot split up. No couples are housed in our shelters, and a room was never forth coming.
These are just a couple examples, and there are dozens more.
Once people had numbers, they were allowed to return to Buster’s to wait for a few more hours as they could not wait at 150 Otis.
We called DPH, and they were going to send HOT team out, but we have little faith that many were placed anywhere for more then one night.
The Struggle Is Not Over
We have a court case on Wednesday that may help. We still have a budget process to bring back 24-hour low-threshold health/hygiene-based drop-in to the city, but already we can say based on last night, the personal impact on human beings was devastating.