Homeless in Lawrence

The storyline is a jarring one: Against the backdrop of a bitter cold snap and the persistent problem of homelessness, the city Lawrence was considering rejecting a federal grant of $136,000 to help house those who have been living on the streets.

City Council president Kendrys Vasquez told WBUR earlier this month that he thought the money wouldn’t be enough to solve the city’s problems and that taking it would instead be a signal that would draw more homeless people to the city, already one of the poorest in the state.

“The grant is not sufficient to address the need that we have,” he said. “And by accepting it, we are sending the wrong message throughout the area, throughout the region. Individuals will believe that we have the necessary funds to help everyone.” Vasquez said taking the money would “cost us more in the long term.”

A Globe editorial today rips that view, which it says “perpetuates wrongheaded policies” that believe communities can reduce homelessness by reducing resources to deal with it.

The controversy carries an echo of a debate that erupted more than 15 years ago over public housing in Fall River. In 2001, then-mayor Ed Lambert turned down a $9 million federal grant to rehab a public housing development called Watuppa Heights. Lambert said Fall River had become a magnet for people driven out of Boston by high housing costs. He argued instead for razing the 100-unit development, building 26 units of affordably priced single-family homes on the site and pledged to find housing elsewhere in the city for anyone displaced from the the development.

”It’s simply about fairness,” Lambert told the New York Times at the time. ”It’s simply about the city doing what it needs to do for our poor, our disabled, our elderly, but not being asked to perform that service for other communities. Let them take the $9 million they want to give us for Watuppa Heights and use it to create units in Boston or in other places.”

Affordable housing issues and homelessness are related but certainly not the same issue. As the Times article noted at the time, it was not in dispute that people were fleeing high-cost Boston for Fall River and other places in search of housing. Advocates for the homeless, by contrast, say there is little evidence that this population engages in a similar search for services.

“The vast majority of homeless folks are not navigating their way toward the most lucrative federal grant,” Phil Mangano, who was the “homeless czar” under former president George W. Bush and is currently president of the American Roundtable to Abolish Homelessness in Boston, tells the Globe.

The common thread, though, is that communities that already address a heavy burden of social needs, whether it’s through public housing or in serving a large homeless population, often feel that they’re then asked to do more, while other communities get a pass.

In the end, the Lawrence City Council voted earlier this week to accept the grant, but it added the condition that the money could only go to aid those who can show they lived in the city for at least a year before becoming homeless. The Globe editorial says it’s not clear such a provision is legal.

Nevertheless, in WBUR’s report earlier this month, that idea seemed to resonate with Laurie Gleason, a lifelong Lawrencian who recently became homeless for the first time at age 42. “I think the people from Lawrence should get the help before other people,” she said. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be mean, but it is what it is.”

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Cannabis regulators talk about talking to US Attorney Andrew Lelling, whose pot-is-illegal stance has cast doubt on the fledgling marijuana industry in Massachusetts. (State House News) People in the Boston legal community doubt he will prosecute licensed marijuana businesses, but say Lelling cannot say that explicitly without running afoul of his higher-ups in Washington. (Boston Globe)

Gov. Charlie Baker said he’s skeptical about creating safe injection sites to stem the opioid crisis. (Associated Press)

A Herald editorial decries the huge payouts top state employees get for unused vacation and sick time and says it’s searching for a Democratic leader in the Legislature willing to step up and back legislation filed by Baker to rein in the policy.

It’s business as usual in the state Senate, several members tell the Herald.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Two top aides to Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, just reelected to a second term, received hefty raises of nearly 24 percent and 50 percent along with two-year contracts. (Herald News)

Barnstable officials are cracking down on temporary signs in the town, prohibiting placement in traffic islands and in areas designated as memorials to veterans and others and requiring organizations to register with the town to place event signs on public property. (Cape Cod Times)

The Brockton City Council is considering changing its 8 p.m. start time for meetings, which has been set by city ordinance for more than 50 years. (The Enterprise)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

White House Chief of staff John Kelley told some Democratic lawmakers that President Trump’s view on building a border wall has “evolved” and was not “fully informed” during the campaign. But Trump tweeted early this morning his mind has not changed at all. (New York Times)

A report commissioned by the US government calls for reducing the drunken driving threshold from a blood alcohol level of .08 percent to .05 percent and hiking alcohol taxes. (Associated Press)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

With downtown Quincy in full redevelopment mode, construction is killing the restaurant business in the area with parking and street closures hampering customer access and making it difficult for many eateries to survive until the building boom is complete. (Patriot Ledger)

Shirley Leung says the state and city incentives for General Electric to move its headquarters here still make sense, despite the company’s tanking stock price and talk by its new CEO of breaking up the behemoth into several companies. (Boston Globe) Jon Chesto outlines the three big challenges facing the company. (Boston Globe)

What to do with the Berkshire Mall, now a ghost of itself, is the focus of an editorial in the Berkshire Eagle.

Secretary of State Bill Galvin filed a securities complaint against a Brookline man who he says is selling unregistered securities in the form of unregulated digital currency. (Boston Herald)

EDUCATION

Yvonne Abraham says the Hasty Pudding Theatricals all-male cast at Harvard has become a tired act and it’s time to allow women into the shows. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

Dante Ramos urges Harvard to step up and pledge more funding for a West Station transit hub in Allston, arguing that “transit delayed is transit denied.” (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

ISO-New England, which manages the regional power grid, issued a report warning of a precarious energy future. The report assumes no new natural gas pipeline infrastructure will be built because ISO officials say they don’t think that will ever happen.(CommonWealth)

Edward N. Krapels says Massachusetts needs to think bigger on offshore wind. (CommonWealth)

South Carolina utilities spent $9 billion on nuclear power plants that were never finished, and now government officials are trying to figure out whether ratepayers should continue to foot the bill. (Governing)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

US District Court Judge Patti Saris likened a group of Indonesian Christians trying to fight deportation back to their country to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, saying she doesn’t want to allow their return to Indonesia without assurances that they won’t face torture or be killed there, as the refugees claim. (Boston Globe)

A Fall River man was arrested and charged with stealing a “sizable” amount of medical marijuana from a Rhode Island cultivation facility where he had done some work on the heating and air conditioning system. (Herald News)

A 42-year-old Bridgewater woman was charged with trying to bring a loaded gun into Brockton District Court. (The Enterprise)

MEDIA

Dan Kennedy interviews Boston Globe editorial page editor Ellen Clegg. (Nieman Journalism Lab)

In the spirit of fairness, the New York Times editorial pages turn the letters-to-the-editor section over to supporters of President Trump.

Here is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial on racism that is causing all the fuss.

ICONS

Longtime TD Garden fixture Rene Rancourt will belt out the national anthem and pump his fist for the final time at the end of the Boston Bruins’ regular season, ending a more than 40-year run for the former opera singer. (MetroWest Daily News)