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Formerly homeless seniors find new home and community in Mattapan

Posted by Patrick Rosso  June 8, 2012 02:43 PM

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(Image courtesy the Mayor's Office)

Local officials and Hearth staff welcome Hearth's new Olmstead Green apartments.

With newly constructed affordable units formally homeless seniors in Boston will now have a safe and stable community to enjoy their later years.

Hearth Inc., a nonprofit founded in 1991 dedicated to ending elder homelessness, cut the ribbon on its new Olmsted Green development on the grounds of the former Boston State Hospital in Mattapan Friday afternoon.

“Aging is accelerated by homelessness and it’s almost impossible to manage chronic conditions if homeless,” said Mark Hinderlie, CEO and president of Hearth, whose group estimates there are 1,200 homeless adults in Boston who are older than 50. “This new building will provide them with a family and the services they need. We all age and at some point we need help.”

The new 59 one-bedroom units in Hearth’s 32,504 square-foot five-story development along American Legion Highway has all the amenities of modern apartments including a kitchen, living room, and bedroom.

The building also has 24-hour staffing along with a computer room, laundry in building, and common space, creating not just a home for the seniors, but a community.

“It was difficult being homeless at my age but I did it to myself,” said Joseph Doherty, 62, who will spend his first night in his new room Friday. “Luckily I had a lot of support at the Pine Street Inn and I’m excited to be here. It’s important to build this sense of community.”

The $16 million development was partially funded by the city of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development and Boston Redevelopment Authority, which contributed $2 million. Three-and-a-half million dollars was also contributed by the state through affordable housing program subsidies.

“No one in the twilight of their life should live in the shadows of an alley or a darkened doorway,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “They deserve a warm and welcoming home that’s part of a very strong community.”

The building, which according to the city meets the DND’s LEED Silver “Certifiable” requirements, is part of the much larger development of the Boston State Hospital campus, which once was a center for the mentally ill.

The Olmsted Green development by Lena Park and New Boston Fund is currently in Phase III of development and once completed will bring over 500 new units to the area adjacent to Franklin Park, with many of the units being affordable.

Big things are happening at the State Hospital Campus, but even with the cranes and new construction around Hearth’s development many were concentrated on the people who will be filling the building's fitness rooms, library, and dining room.

“It’s been heaven on earth,” said Richard Myree, 62, who was homeless for four years. “Living on the streets was hard. You were in constant fear of medical issues and young people stealing your medication from you and I don’t feel that here. This is a real home.”

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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