Officials at the United South End Settlements say they have little choice but to sell off the Harriet Tubman House on Columbus Avenue and move its programs to another USES building on Rutland Street: The current Harriet Tubman building is in dire need of expensive repairs and most of its programs run at a deficit.
At a community meeting last night at the Rutland Street facility, officials said that selling off the half-acre site in the red-hot South End market would raise enough money to both expand the Rutland Street facility and to create an endowment to help pay for future needs. More than 100 people attended - with some being forced to sit in an overflow room.
They're similar arguments to those made by officials at the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, who also recently announced plans to sell their South End home.
At a community meeting at Rutland Street last night, a number of residents expressed their sadness and frustration at the proposal to sell off the current Harriet Tubman House, named for the abolitionist whose life inspired six Boston women to create a place to stay for young black women newly arrived in Boston. This settlement house, originally on Holyoke Street, eventually became part of USES, which moved into the current Harriet Tubman House in 1975.
"The urban pioneers are moving in again and moving us out of the South End," one resident said.
"The Tubman House has a very painful history," another resident said, referring to its past moves around the South End and to what she said was the current secrecy over the proposal to sell off the building. Some noted the irony of holding the meeting about an institution of historic importance to Boston's black community during Black History Month.
But USES officials said the Harriet Tubman House - which sits on the site once occupied by the Hi-Hat jazz club - is more than just a building - it's the people and its programs.
USES President and CEO Maicharia Lytle and other officials said that most USES programs are now running at a deficit - save for Club 48, an after-school program and an early-childhood education program. The group spends $600,000 a year to maintain its current programs at both sites.
Joyce King, 88, and a lifetime South End resident, said the 48 Rutland St. building is an important part of the community as well. King, who lived on the building's top floor for 12 years, was always an avid volunteer for USES programs, including those at the building she and other locals call, simply, the 48.
USES will hold another community meeting on its future on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. at 48 Rutland St.