In a Zoom call with angry Fairmount Hill residents this evening, Alex Edwards said he's evicted the non-profit group that had rented his two-family house at 74 Beacon St. as a "transitional" home, following a daytime shooting there last Thursday.
Edwards said the Justice Resource Institute (JRI) of Needham has removed all its clients and has promised to remove all its property from the house by April 1, after which he will either rent out the property to somebody else or just sell it. Edwards said whatever he decides he will likely do quickly, since he's currently paying $4,000 a month for the mortgage on the property, which Registry records show he bought in January, 2020 for $655,000. However, he acknowledged the house needs extensive repair work.
The shooting "did hit me hard and I can only imagine what happened to the people who witnessed it," Edwards said from his car, parked outside the house.
Capt. Joseph Gillespie of BPD District E-18 said the victim, found in a car on Metropolitan Avenue at the Milton line, several blocks away, did not suffer life-threatening injuries despite losing so much blood at the scene that ariving officers at first thought there might be two victims. Gillespie said detectives have identified suspects that they do not think the shooting was random, that the shooter knew the victim and specifically targeted him. He said he couldn't say more because the investigation is ongoing.
Neighbors on the call, organized by City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo and joined by state Rep. Rob Consalvo, said that, yes, the shooting was disturbing, but that in some ways it was just the culmination of problems they've been having with the house for nearly a year.
One resident said that when JRI first moved in, she was told the house would be used for "troubled youth," but that in recent months, the residents - whom Edwards said included one young woman with a baby on the first floor and four more people on the second floor - seemed to be older and more aggravating. Residents said they'd made repeated calls to both 311 and 911 about everything from trash problems to fighting in the street, but that nothing ever seemed to change before last Thursday.
Another resident said she had grown tired of JRI telling residents the reason they never saw any staffers or case workers at the property was because of Covid-19 - surely case workers at a home for "troubled youth" would be considered "essential workers."
Residents emphasized they are not against the idea of group homes, although they questioned whether they are getting clustered on Fairmount Hill. One resident who spoke sits on the board of a South Shore non-profit that runs such homes to get people off the streets; another said she lives next to a group home run by another social-services organization, Vinfen, that is well run and quickly responds to her queries.
Arroyo, who previously was a public defender who frequently worked to get clients into such homes, said that ideally, nearby residents shouldn't even be aware one of their neigbhoring houses was a group home, because they should be well run. The shooting, he said, "speaks for itself, [this house] was not well managed."
Neighbors questioned whether the facility was even legal in the house under Boston's zoning code.
Edwards said that following the shooting, an inspector from "1010" - ISD - came down to the house and said the use was legal.
But Arroyo said he's working with ISD Commissioner Dion Irish to research the issue. Arroyo said that homeowners have legal rights to do what they want with their property and that, depending on the specific sort of program JRI was running, its residents might be legally "protected" from any government efforts to evict them - the federal Fair Housing Act means the city is "not allowed to deny renters the right to rent anywhere." he said.
At the same time, he continued, groups that run residential programs need to be considerate of their neighbors. If nothing else, programs should be required to notify neighbors they are moving in and to keep them aware of any issues. Boston doesn't currently require that, but Arroyo said part of his and Irish's research will involve looking at setting something like that up.
Arroyo pledged to get back to residents with specific answers within a month.
Edwards said he would also let residents know what he decides about the house. Residents said they hope he'll do a better job communicating with them. Some people who live right next to the house said they were alarmed yesterday afternoon when they said the house's front door open and lights on - because they didn't know the people inside were workers cleaning out the house, rather than troublemakers back to the scene of the crime.