FRAMINGHAM – In his response to my second letter, Jim Cuddy justifies the expansion of SMOC activities by stressing that 11% of Framingham is at or below the poverty line, the highest rate in the MetroWest area. What he ignores, however, is the responsibility that SMOC, Advocates Inc. and the multitude of human service agencies have for elevating this poverty rate in Framingham.
According to a U.S. Census publication of 1980, five years before Mr. Cuddy arrived to lead SMOC, Framingham was one of the most prosperous communities in Massachusetts. Its per capita income ranked high in the comparatively wealthy MetroWest area, ahead of Ashland, Holliston, Hopkinton, and Natick, but below Sherborn, Southborough, Sudbury, and Wayland. My scan of the Census table places Framingham among the 30 most prosperous towns in all of Massachusetts during the late 1970s.
Over the past four decades, as SMOC and other human service agencies have grown, Framingham has become a magnet for their clientele, people who suffer from “alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, domestic violence, health issues, lack of employable skills, lack of education, criminal justice issues, and a poor tenant history…” They have inflated the proportion of Framingham that lives at or below the poverty level.
Framingham has been transformed from a highly prosperous town into a haven for people in need of social services.
As measured by per capita income, the latest Census ranking of 351 Massachusetts cities and towns places Hopkinton #25, Holliston #42, Natick #58, and Ashland #63.
Framingham has dropped from being ahead of these four to #215, one of the poorer municipalities in the state. SMOC, Advocates Inc. and other agencies have contributed substantially to this decline.
Had their services been fairly distributed across MetroWest, the poverty rate would not be so magnified in a single community.