Editor’s Note: This letter was sent to City of Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer and submitted to the SOURCE, a digital news media outlet, to be published as a letter to the editor. The Advocates mentioned in this letter to the editor is based in Framingham and not in New York.
FRAMINGHAM – Dear Mayor Spicer:
I believe that we Americans have a collective responsibility to provide for the needs of people in various stages of privation, whether they suffer from poverty, homelessness, alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, spousal abuse, or educational disadvantages. This responsibility should be but is not recognized collectively. Instead it is clustered locally in one community – Framingham. We have been and remain a progressive, welcoming community and should be proud of our record. But we have been taken advantage of because of our inclusiveness, and that needs to be addressed and remedied.
Equal opportunity requires municipalities to take equal responsibility.
A disproportionate amount of social service expansion has targeted Framingham. Although many are well intentioned, social service supporters have exploited residential neighborhoods of Framingham while insulating surrounding MetroWest communities from the questionable effects of situating rehabilitative human service buildings and services in family neighborhoods. The term NIMBY (not in my back yard) applies to the leadership of some of the most visible activists, such as the South Middlesex Opportunity Council and the New York-based Advocates. They urge Framingham residents to do what they say, not what they do. Leaders who do not live in Framingham treat it as a frontier town open to every human service experiment they conceptualize. Consequently, a unique burden has been imposed on our city’s public safety personnel and homeowners who have had to provide state and federally required services while having no comparable mandates to preserve the quality and dignity of our majority residences.
This clustering of social services in one community has done a disservice to the neighborhoods and to the clients themselves. Let me illustrate the impact of clustering. I grew up from 1947 to 1964 in the poorest stretch of Framingham – the easternmost mile of Waverly Street. We had single family flats in two and three decker homes families strewn among physically unsightly businesses, such as a huge salvage company and an auto body junk yard. Public assistance was limited and helped few. Most of us believed that working hard, respecting others, and obeying the rules would enable us to improve our conditions, and most of us did. Most of us – lower income Jews, Blacks, and Italians – assimilated the American dream and eventually moved out and up. If instead we had been clustered together primarily among service recipients, we might not have believed that self-help and personal drive were keys to independence and achievement.
Dispersal of social service housing among the well-heeled communities supposedly part of SMOC’s original orbit – Ashland, Bellingham, Hopkinton, Holliston, Natick, Southborough, and Wayland would provide models of independent living next to clients. Instead these communities are shielded from the poverty and low-end construction that has spread across downtown Framingham and the south side. SMOC owns 162 properties – 56 or 35% are in Framingham, 1 in Ashland, 1 in Natick, 0 in Holliston, 0 in Hopkinton, 0 in Southborough, and 0 in Wayland. Worcester and Northbridge have the closest number to ours, 21 and 13 respectively. The Framingham 56 are currently assessed at more than $35 million. Advocates owns 19 properties in Framingham currently assessed at more than $10 million. Advocates directors are from upstate New York. The president of SMOC’s board of directors lives in Wayland.
We have long needed to evaluate systematically the impact of these properties and their hundreds of clients on public safety personnel and resources. Moreover, the time is overdue to demand that state and federal agencies which have facilitated the clustering of human service enterprises into our single community be held accountable and pay for redressing the damage they have inadvertently inflicted. Framingham suffers from the unintended consequences of do-gooders and their government abettors.