‘Huge Wave of Homeless’ in Hyannis, Police Chief Says

homelessHYANNIS – Barnstable town officials concerned about a large influx of homeless people, including many from the Boston area, are meeting next week with local human service providers to figure out what to do about the problem.

“It seems like we’re taking three steps forward and five steps backward because there is a huge wave of homeless individuals who are coming to downtown Hyannis and this has to be addressed,” Barnstable Police Chief Paul MacDonald said.

An invitation was sent out to the leaders of the Housing Assistance Corporation and other human services providers to come to town hall to talk about the issue next Tuesday morning with town councilors and town management, as well as Barnstable Police Chief Paul MacDonald and Hyannis Fire Chief Harold Brunelle.

Cynthia Lovell, the Barnstable Town Council administrator, said the meeting is to address the growing homeless problem in downtown Hyannis, which she said has tripled over the last several years from a core group of about 93 identified problem homeless people to now 298 people and growing, a tripling of the homeless population. “They’re everywhere,” she said.

“We’re trying to see if we can held people into a transitional program to see if we can help and save lives and get some ideas,” she said. She said the hope is that police and fire chiefs can give statistics on how many calls for service they get and the impact to their departments.

MacDonald agreed the number of homeless people has grown significantly in Hyannis.

“This is the problem we have. We have to stem this tide. We do not want downtown Hyannis to become a mecca for all the homeless in southeastern Mass, New England and across the country,” he said.

The closing of the Long Island Shelter in Boston this past winter, has had an impact on Cape Cod, MacDonald said, because homeless shelters in the Boston area, like the Pine Street Inn, are referring people down to Cape Cod.

The Long Island Shelter was closed after the bridge leading to the shelter was condemned, displacing about 700 people.

“They had to close the shelter and a lot of the individuals were referred down here to NOAH,” MacDonald said.

NOAH is a homeless shelter on Winter Street in Hyannis that is run by Housing Assistance Corporation.

Chief MacDonald said people are referred to Hyannis from shelters in the Boston area and elsewhere around the region.

“If they’re overcrowded, they send them, saying, ‘There are shelters on Cape Cod. You can go down there.’ This is a huge issue. This is why we have to address this homeless issue in downtown Hyannis,” MacDonald said.

He said when the Main Street Initiative was formed in 2009, police and human service providers identified 93 of the most problematic individuals on Main Street. “That’s when this collaboration all started. All those individuals are now gone,” he said. Officials have placed them in housing or, in some cases, they have been incarcerated, MacDonald said.

But they have been replaced by an influx of, the chief said, 200 or 225 people.

The Barnstable Police Department has formed the Community Impact Unit, consisting of three officers, to deal solely with the homeless population in Hyannis. With the acknowledgement that the population is growing. money has been added in this fiscal year’s budget to increase that unit by one officer, so now there are four officers, the chief said, “dedicated to dealing with the homeless population in downtown Hyannis, because it is growing significantly.”

Some homeless people who do not stay in the NOAH shelter because it is full or because they choose not stay there because it is a “dry” facility that does not allow alcohol or drugs, live in the area woods.

On Tuesday, members of the Community Impact Unit joined with the sheriff’s department to clear out homeless camps in wooded areas in and around Hyannis and they removed a number of homeless camps, according to the chief.

“The individuals who are in the woods, they are what you call hardcore homeless individuals. A lot of them have addiction issues, alcohol or drugs or mental health issues,” MacDonald said.

737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
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