Herald Hits Shelter Closing

Paper Blames Dukakis Administration for Routine Shutdown

In an apparent swipe at the presidential campaign of Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, the Boston Herald this week revealed that six temporary shelters for the homeless, including Harvard's University Lutheran Shelter, would close due to a state-level "fund feud."

But the Winter Shelter Program buildings--which include the 23-bed Phillips Brooks House project--will do nothing out of the ordinary when they shut down for the warm season this April.

The University Lutheran shelter, which receives $13,000 from the state Department of Public Welfare, normally closes for the summer because most student volunteers leave the city.

`Fund Feud'

The Herald's March 10 edition declared across the front page, "Fund feud may close homelss shelters." The article accompanying the headline blamed the "budget worries of the Dukakis administration" for the closing of the winter shelters and bemoaned the loss of 450 beds at a time when Boston is swamped with homeless people. However, the article did not describe the "fund feud" referred to in the headline.


The next day, the Herald printed an apology by the story's author, Phil Primack, saying the previous day's report had been incomplete and that "it is simply untrue that there's any connection between state budget pressures and the end of funding for shelters always intended to be temporary."

`Pretty Confusing'

Mark Baker, of the 350-bed Pine Street Inn shelter, called the Thursday article "pretty confusing to a lot of people. It was not clear, there were not too many facts, and it was not altogether accurate." Pine Street runs Boston's largest temporary shelter, at Boston University's Commonwealth Armory building.

Baker said the Winter Shelter Program was a temporary program for the heating season and that "from the onset, we were up front about the fact that this was only a temporary shelter." He said its closing was "no surprise," except to The Boston Herald. "It's not like some 800-pound gorilla came in and told us to shut it down."

"A lot of people called us about that article," Baker said, "Our response was, `look folks, we did what we set out to do.' For the first time we provided enough space, enough food, enough blankets for everyone in Boston to have a place this winter."

Kerry Fitzgerald of the Department of Public Welfare said the state does not force any shelters to close for the summer and is "willing to work with the shelters to make them permanent." She cited the First Church shelter in Cambridge as one that has applied to the Department of Public Welfare for permanent status. The department runs 79 permanent shelters and only six temporary ones, she said.

Boston Herald editors did not return calls about the story yesterday.

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