South End shelter owner says he is shocked to hear guests are using drugs and disrupting the neighborhood
After listening to many locals in the Concord Square area of the South End complain about drug trafficking, people on the front steps passed out on the front steps or shouting angrily at nearby residents, broken glass and discarded cigarette butts in neighboring yards, the CEO of the company that now owns the 16-room shelter at 44 Concord Sq. said he was stunned – and vowed to get to the bottom of it all.
“I don’t like people angry with us thinking we’ve wronged them,” Bruce Percelay of Mount Vernon Co. in Allston said yesterday at a Boston Licensing Board meeting on Zoom, which the board said called to broadcast. complaints from the most permanent residents of the place.
Percelay added, however, that he wished the residents had contacted him or his company first before going to the licensing board with “an avalanche of complaints that I certainly knew nothing about.”
“We are as transparent and as open as there is here in this area,” he said. “Where there is smoke, there is fire, I guess.… We want to solve this problem, we want to be a good neighbor.”
Residents say they have long coexisted, luckily even, with the shelter, which Mount Vernon bought about seven years ago. In 2018, a resident said she even rented rooms there for outside guests to celebrate her daughter’s graduation from Boston Latin School. Other residents have spoken of sitting on their porches – a popular Concord Square pastime in good weather – and chatting with people staying there.
But residents said Mount Vernon no longer runs the shelter in the traditional way as a place to stay for young professionals for a month or two after they get a job in Boston and, especially since the pandemic, it does. now manages it like an Airbnb. , aimed at people looking for very short stays, many of whom are “shady characters” who are into either using or selling drugs, which they say threatens to turn the block of brownstones into an extension by Mass and Cass. Shelters are exempt from the city’s ban on short-term rentals owned by investors.
One resident spoke of people “stumbling out of there, stoned or somehow weakened”.
Another resident, who lives right next to the shelter, says he now regularly finds broken glass and cigarette butts in his yard after nights of “screaming and screaming”, which he and his wife owe. keep their windows closed to prevent smoking. and marijuana smoke billowing from the building and that he now has concerns about “taking my kids out there after dark to hang out in our backyard” – and when he goes on a trip to business.
“This is the first time that I have felt uncomfortable in the South End,” he said.
Another resident said she was sitting on her porch with her four-year-old son last month, just enjoying a beautiful day, when a woman stopped and started “pulling a lot of things out of the way. a car”. The woman saw her and shouted “What are you looking at?”
“We don’t expect the Pollyanna suburb at all,” but Concord Square isn’t an extension of Mass and Cass either, another resident said.
“This is the very first time in 25 years that we have seen this level of rambling operations in a shelter,” said Stephen Fox, chair of the South End Forum, which represents neighborhood groups across the South End. . “There is something fundamentally wrong with this particular place,” he said, adding that it could be because it is no longer run as a shelter but as ” a night hotel “.
Percelay acknowledged that Mount Vernon, like other businesses with room to rent, drastically lowered rates last year just to try and generate revenue during the pandemic. “We have experienced something brutal in the pandemic,” he said. The company, which also owns the Revolution Hotel on Berkeley Street, was “getting run over.”
“I can hear the anger in your voice,” he continued. “If you knew us better, you would know we don’t play games. Fortunately, this is an alien experience for us.”
“We are not mind readers,” he said, and residents should contact him or contact Mount Vernon to discuss the issues. “We have to know that there is a problem,” he said.
Residents countered that maybe if Mount Vernon, which doesn’t have a full-time housing worker, had done what they did and put cameras on their property, they would know what the problems are.
Licensing Board Chair Kathleen Joyce tried to end the hearing on a positive note. “It looks like we have a very active community here and an operator proud of their reputation and their work,” she said, urging both sides to keep talking.