What is the engagement center?
The engagement center is a welcoming environment for individuals in need of a space to spend time during the day. In addition to providing a shaded, air-conditioned indoor space off the streets and sidewalks, the engagement center also serves as a space for participants to get connected to the many housing and recovery services offered by the City of Boston and partners in the Newmarket Square area.
The engagement center offers a range of basic amenities and comfort items, such as clean bathroom facilities, water, coffee, and light snacks. Amenities including quiet space and workstations are also available to participants. Staff from the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) and partner organizations routinely rotate through the engagement center. These staff offer services and support for substance use recovery, permanent and supportive housing, mental and behavioral health conditions, and more.
Why did the City open the engagement center?
The City of Boston has scaled up multiple efforts to address the national housing and opioid crises affecting Newmarket Square and surrounding neighborhoods. Efforts include increasing access to housing and recovery services, adding dedicated outreach workers to engage individuals on the streets, beautifying the neighborhood with public art and enhanced cleanup efforts, implementing good neighbor policies, and extending the hours of Boston Police Department patrols.
Planning for the engagement center has been informed by the concerns and ideas expressed in the many community meetings coordinated by residents, neighborhood associations, local businesses, and City departments. Homeless guests at City shelters, City departments, law enforcement, service providers and neighborhood associations have identified the lack of safe, recreational space for homeless individuals in the neighborhood. Individuals participating in area recovery services have also identified that indoor/outdoor seating, basic amenities, restrooms, and workstations would be a great addition to the clinical services they access in the neighborhood throughout the day.
When did the engagement center open?
The engagement center opened as pilot space in August 2017. The center became a permanent space in 2018, as a result of Mayor Walsh's FY19 budget proposal.
What are the hours and days of operations weekly?
The engagement center space is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
What are the goals of the engagement center?
The engagement center aims to:
- Create a comfortable space for individuals to begin or continue engagement in services;
- Provide a safe, coed space for individuals in the neighborhood to spend time during the day;
- Address neighborhood concerns regarding sidewalk congestion; and
- Offer Boston Police Department officers and street outreach workers a place to guide individuals in need of services and support.
Where is the engagement center located?
The engagement center space is located directly behind the 112 Southampton Street Shelter. The entrance to the space is on Atkinson Street.
What are the criteria for entering the engagement center? Will there be any restrictions?
The engagement center is open to all residents in the community over the age of 18 who are looking for a welcoming space to access basic amenities during the day in the Newmarket Square area. Illegal activity and acts of violence will not be tolerated in this space.
Will there be any restrictions regarding sobriety, e.g., being drunk or high on drugs?
Participants may enter the space under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol if they are not in need of urgent medical care. Engagement center staff will assess participants for safety and refer those in need of medical monitoring to the SPOT program, offered by Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP), or to area emergency rooms. Participants who wish to access treatment will be escorted to BPHC's PAATHS (Providing Access to Addictions Treatment, Hope and Support) program or AHOPE (Access, Harm Reduction, Overdose Prevention and Education) program.
Is this a medically supervised or safe injection site?
The engagement center is NOT a safe injection site. Safe injection sites are not legal in the United States. Participants using the space will not be permitted to actively use drugs and/or alcohol or engage in illegal activities while onsite.