With Government Open, Boston's Pine Street Inn Plans And Prioritizes

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The 35-day federal government shutdown left organizations that rely on federal funding with the prospect of running out of funds, including Boston's Pine Street Inn, a homeless services provider that helps homeless people in Boston move from the streets into shelters, and from shelters into affordable housing.

Now, the government has been temporarily reopened.

The president of the Pine Street Inn, Lyndia Downie, joined Weekend Edition to discuss how the organization is approaching this three-week grace period.

Interview Highlights

On the short-term funding of the government

"You know, the problem with these kind of things is a), they're unexpected and b), we will cover them, of course. We're not going to not house people. We're not going to evict anybody. But it means other things won't happen and we'll have to make a set of priorities. 'We won't do this, because we have to do that for now.'"

On how this is impacting the populations the Pine Street Inn serves

"I say this to guests who are staying at the inn when we're helping them move out, we can help solve people's homelessness, but we can't solve their poverty in the short term. So even when people move into our housing, they're still poor. They still — it's still a struggle for them to pay the rent off and to make food, find food that they can stretch to the end of the month. You know, most of our folks are on a fixed income. And so any small change in that really does impact people. So if you're food stamps — if you don't get your food stamps for a month or two, people do make decisions about 'well, so I don't have food stamps, so I've got to pay the rent, but I'll not take my full medication, or I won't pay for my medication.'

"People make those very real choices and I'm not sure people always understand, it's kind of the collective small impact of those things. And I think for people living in units with private landlords where rents are going up on a regular basis, the worry about the rent going up, any risk your Section 8, it makes people really anxious when they already have a lot of things that they're dealing with."

On stress caused by financial uncertainty

"I think that it takes you out of strategic mode and into crisis mode. And really, if there's anything that we've worked really hard on in the city of Boston is having a strategy that has some data and some research behind it to try and really address homelessness. You know, involving trying to place people that have been homeless the longest, targeting units, working on development — we've really been working on it and have quite a coordinated system in the city of Boston. But this takes your eye off the prize, and it means you have to revert to dealing with the crisis and what are we going to do next month, and what if it does go on. So it's never a good place to be. It's the reality and I think lots of people are, you know, can do both. But it's, long term, it's not the right way to run anything."

This segment aired on January 27, 2019.


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Sharon Brody is the voice of WBUR's weekend mornings. On Saturdays and Sundays, she anchors the news for Weekend Edition and other popular programs.


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Hannah Chanatry was a producer for WBUR's All Things Considered.



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