Vice Mayor Column: Cambridge has a shared responsibility to help the homeless

October 17, 2016: Many municipalities around the country are large, sprawling metropolises that span many square miles. The Metro Boston area, however, is different. We are a mix of smaller fiefdoms that exist independent of one another. Despite our different names, different forms of government and different identities, we struggle with many of the same issues. Whether it's affordable housing, job creation, the environment or improving public schools, the cities of Metro Boston have a great deal in common. Despite these similarities, policy makers and department heads from our various cities rarely get together to talk about how we can work cooperatively in addressing our mutual challenges.

Like so many other issues, homelessness is an issue that impacts all of our communities, yet there is very little, if any, coordinated efforts from one city to the next. Our homeless community members are transient. They often travel via public transportation from one community to another trying to obtain services ranging from shelters, to meals, to public services. We often talk about who are "Cambridge's homeless" or "Boston's homeless" when in reality we all share a responsibility to support these vulnerable individuals who frequent all of our communities at one time or another.

It is because of this shared responsibility that I asked Mayor E. Denise Simmons to allow me to create the Metro Boston Homelessness Summit. The goal of this group is to bring together policy makers and department heads from Cambridge, Boston, Somerville, Everett, Chelsea, Medford and Malden for a series of four meetings over the course of the next several months to address homelessness on a regional basis.

This work will include looking at what each of these communities is currently doing to address homelessness, what each community is planning in the future to address homelessness, where our communities overlap, where there are gaps, what state wide experts say we should or should not be doing and then finishing by issuing a report with information and recommendations on how we can work better together moving forward. This is the first time these communities will come together to address this issue collaboratively.
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