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It’s Friday! The sun is up, the birds are chirping and the Merrimack River is a gorgeous, flowing sight to behold!
Ok, not really, but it is looking better these days now that Mayor Rivera FINALLY decided to overhaul tent city under the Casey street bridge in Lawrence.
(Even though it’s been a huge issue for years and has never been fully addressed until just a few months before election time.. Convenient, no?)
Whatever. I’m just glad they’re making an effort to get that place under control because there’s been a whole lot of shady business going on over there.
*Big shoutout to Tommy Duggan at The Valley Patriot! He was pretty much responsible for getting this whole project going!*
It’s not a secret that the homeless population has grown like wildfire and there are tent cities all over Massachusetts. Lowell overhauled their camp over at Beaver Brook in 2013 and Brockton followed suit last Summer. Unfortunately most of the people living in the Brockton camp hiked down to Fall River and set up shop but that’s usually the way it goes. Just use your imagination and envision what kind of knock-off, throw-down fiesta those guys are having all joined together in one big BedRiver mashup!
I’m joking. That sounds terrible.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not a cold hearted turtle bitch when it comes to the homeless population and we all know that nobody ever dreams of living under a bridge someday. I drive all over the Merrimack Valley for work every single day see pan-handlers on 114, 28, 110 and all along Merrimack Street. I’m pretty good at offering a smile and a bottle of water or a buck here and there if I haven’t squandered my change on mainlining excess amounts of Dunkin Donuts.
But what people don’t see is what goes on behind the scenes at these camps. Unless you’re living there or bringing supplies, you don’t venture under the bridges in Lawrence. Nope.
Here’s what you don’t see (until the city comes to haul everything away):
We have 5 gallon drums!
We have full sized mattresses!
We’ve got foot stools and slabs of particle board!
We have soggy old blankets and storage bins!
There are makeshift bunkbeds! (MORE ROOM FOR ACTIVITIES!)
Yoga mats and pallets!
A gently worn sectional end piece from Bobs Furniture!
Car seats! Clothes! Children’s toys!
There’s even a leftover Christmas tree and ornaments!
And there’s enough black trashbags to recreate Missy Elliot’s signature outfit from her “I cant stand the rain” music video.
But at least they kept the PBR beer can, infant play mat and dish soap.
The longer I look at these photos the more irritated I get. I was really hoping not to come off as a horrible human being but there’s no way anyone in their right mind can look at this MOUNTAIN of trash and not be irate.
First things first: Massachusetts is the ONLY state with a right to shelter law. That means that our state guarantees emergency shelter to those who qualify.
You qualify for housing relief if:
You are a Massachusetts resident, have a child under 21, meet the income standard, have a child in danger of a health/safety risk, haven’t had an at-fault eviction (that’s a gray area for me. Free pass) or are fleeing domestic violence. Is it going to be a luxury stay at the Ritz-Carlton? No, but at least your baby wont be rolling around in dirt, trash, broken glass and cigarette butts. There is NO reason for a child to be in that environment. Period.
My other issue is this: If you would rather live outside than at a shelter or have no desire to seek help in obtaining long term housing then for Christ’s sake clean up your shit! There is no excuse for this amount of filth to pile up. If you’re heading out for the day then take a bag of garbage and throw it in a trashcan for fucks sake. You know why it doesn’t get picked up? Because no one cares. Listen, if you want to have your own yard and fill it up with garbage and faux-leather furniture like a 978 gypsy then by all means, go for it. But don’t set up shop on property that isn’t yours and then pollute the ground and THE RIVER around you.
You know, the river that Rocky Morrison and his crew at the Clean River Project have worked so tirelessly to clean up for the past 12 years? They just announced this morning that the Mayor has joined their coalition and they will begin removing waste today so maybe stop using it like your personal garbage disposal.
On top of the massive trash overhaul, the Lawrence Police Department has set up shop with a 24/7 surveillance point at the bridge and they’re coming down hard on anyone trying to bring stuff in.
Along with the fuzz-mobile you have to check in if you’re bringing food and other goods can ONLY go to the shelters after registering with the city.
There are plenty of places within the city limits that have a TON to offer and a lot of people have gone off the deep end with the idea that the city is punishing the homeless community. Come on. The same items will be available for free like always been BUT this method ensures that people become motivated to get of their asses and physically obtain the items themselves. All non perishable items being donated from now on will require drop off to one of the local facilities in town.
It’s not a secret that the areas around the bridge are ripe with prostitution, crime and drug use and if you beg to differ, please take a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood. Time to shut that shit down.
Oh, and the police are actively seeking the arrest of “FAT FREDDY” so if you see him call the LPD!
Fat Freddy (A.K.A. Freddy Miguel Santiago) is a grade A dumpster dragon. He’s well known in the city and within the tent community for being a sloppy, violent scumbucket who charges the homeless population $$ in order to “let them” stay under the bridge and assaults or rapes those who don’t have the funds.
I’m 10000% sure that Freddy Santiago isn’t his real name because after digging into his family members it seems as though none of their names are legit either. That’s ok with me because I like Fat Freddie better anyway. He’s here illegally from the Dominican Republic after being deported and skipping back over the border. He’s from East Boston but has ties to Methuen and Lawrence as well as family living in NY and Florida.
Look at that rotund, rancid, honey-baked ham with feet and a flat brim. Jesus.
If he put a black Tshirt on I would only be able to decipher him from the massive pile of trash on the curb because the trash would smell better.
Alright so anyway, while it seems like sunshine and rainbows to help 24/7 all it’s doing is exacerbating the issue at hand. If we can get these guys in the door of the places that are actually there to help them then there’s no harm in maintaining boundaries and cracking down on the street lifestyle that’s come to be expected and tolerated. It’s not only unacceptable but it’s a health hazard that neither side should be exposed to (especially the one’s who aren’t making the mess and funding the cleanup with tax dollars.)
There are still needles everywhere. You cant hike down a trail, walk your dog or visit a beach with your kids without finding at least one and it’s friggin ridiculous. Party’s over!
Here is the full list of food pantries, shelters and other programs available nearby in case anyone needs resources!
The Daybreak Shelter: Substance abuse education/treatment, recovery services, mental health counseling, shelter, assistance applying for health care, womens recovery housing and residential treatment for youth and young adults.