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OPINION: Why hasn’t Fall River opened its homeless overflow shelter yet?



Winter is moving in fast and hard and we already hear the stories of homeless not having anywhere to go. Fall River’s homeless shelter, First Step Inn, has overflow beds that they make available at a date set by them. That date has not arrived yet even though New Bedford opened their shelter last night.

Homeless advocates in Fall River began getting requests late last night for beds. The homeless shelter’s 20 beds were already taken. Also, the shelter is run as a dry shelter, meaning no alcohol or drug use is allowed before entering the shelter. Many people on the streets have alcohol and drug problems – if they are not in need of medical care and are not a problem, then why are they treated differently?

In the past, mayors have opened the City Hall atrium when it gets dangerously cold but it was overlooked last night. Acting mayor Cliff Ponte was contacted this morning and he stated that he is working with Emergency Management on the issue. They are the ones in charge of opening the lower level of City Hall. Acting Mayor Ponte also stated that he was told that the First Step Inn was not full and was taking people. Homeless advocates state that the homeless in Fall River were looking for beds last night and could not find any. A call to the First Step Inn was made and they did not return the call as of this writing.

The homeless task force and City of Fall River need to address the issue of the dry shelter policy that leaves many with no place except under bridges, railroad tracks, and hospital emergency rooms. They are still humans. The mayor-elect, now through his transition Team, MUST address this issue. The homeless and the addicted must be cared for.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Bruce Vincelette

    July 11, 2021 at 1:00 pm

    When he took office, Mayor of Fall River, MA, Paul Coogan visited a city neighborhood and saw a boarded up house with a homeless person living on its porch. The house had been gutted of pipes and everything else of value. Coogan looked around and said that he wouldn’t want to live around there. Suddenly he was struck by a flash of vision and returned to the 6th floor of 1 Government Center where he called the owner to ask, “What are you going to do about this?”

    I am hopeful that Mayor Coogan will report back to us sometime soon and share what the owner shared and if he ( Coogan ) feels that he accomplished anything. I am concerned and look forward to an update on how this was resolved. The Mayor did not voice any concern for the homeless soul living on the building’s porch thus far except to say ” I wouldn’t want to live around here!”

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