Since the installation of the Shattuck cottages within Franklin
Park, I have noticed a dramatic increase in open heroin use and
evidence left behind of recent use. In conversations with
people that clean up the Williams St entrance area, it is clear
that cleanup changed from alcohol nips to needle caps. I
created this website and pulled the available 311 data to see
if what I am observing is real or something I just started
noticing. Since then, I have extensively walked through areas
of the woods which are adjacent to the Shattuck campus. Within
Franklin Park, in the last month I guided Boston Public Health
employees to over 250 needles, I witnessed heroin deals, I
found small bags containing heroin near trails, I encountered
multiple people actively using heroin, and witnessed an
unresponsive person being removed by emergency personnel. I put
my findings here.
One major finding is that there are no mechanisms in place to
mitigate the impact of the Shattuck cottages within the
vicinity. It appears no thought was given to potential
ramifications and only 100% success was planned for. This is
while working with a population that will stumble many times
before reaching success. My hope moving forward is that we can
learn from our mistakes, place some measures to mitigate the
heroin use in the park, have good neighbors, and set up those
seeking treatment for success and not have temptation at their
What started me on this journey was a visit with my toddler to
the Williams St. entrance of Franklin Park during the middle of
the day. About 100 feet into the park, and within the opening
on the left, 3 individuals appeared to be having a picnic. My
son repeatedly said "sleep" and ran towards them. They were
actively shooting up heroin.
A day after observing people using heroin
near the Williams St. entrance of Franklin Park, I found over a
dozen needles in the area, including what is pictured below. I
could not help but wonder "would my toddler be able to tell the
difference between a blood-filled syringe and a toy when left
side by side".
I must admit, this encounter nerved me a little bit. I became
super vigilant and noticed all the evidence of heroin use
within the area; needles, addipaks, needle caps, these suddenly
seemed to be accumulating, and especially near the benches at
the Ellicott Arch. On almost every walk I would find a needle
and sometimes up to 20 within a single location. I could not
escape the visual of needle caps appearing and disappearing.
Someone was cleaning these up but they kept coming back. I was
not sure if what I was seeing was due to a keener eye or an
increase in activity. I set out to gather data to see if I was
being emotionally biased. That is what this website is designed
to do. Please explore the other tabs if you are interested. I
collected all the data I could from 311 on needle cleanup
locations throughout Boston and aggregated by month and week.
Below you can see the comparison of needle cleanup from before
the Shattuck cottages and since the construction. As of this
writing, I see a clear increase of needles within the Williams
St. entrance area. I set this up to update every week, so by
the time you are reading this, it may be worse, or it may be
better. What is telling is the timing of the activity.
Increases started after placement of housing and services and
not before, therefore, it is not the lack of housing and
services leading to what we see, it is the placement of them
within the park. Either the vicinity has been mismanaged, or
the density of housing and services in the area is too high to
If we start looking at where needles
are found, a clear trajectory is seen coming from the Shattuck
campus. In the image below, each purple to yellow heat-map area
represents where needles were found since December 20, 2021, when
the cottages on the Shattuck campus opened; the blue circle
represents the relative size of population housed; the black line
is where there is currently a fence; the red line is the
trajectory coming from the Shattuck site. This heat-map matches
my observations. Activity from the Williams St. entrance to the
Ellicott arches is increasing.
This now leads me to the next obvious area, the woods with high
activity located between the entrance leading to the Ellicott
Arch and Cemetery Road. This area is seen in the picture below
and encircled by a red line. I have explored a lot of this
area. It is a place to get out of your comfort zone. There is
continual evidence of heroin use throughout all the trails
here. I have found well over 100 needles, seen active heroin
use, seen drug deals, found bags with heroin still in them, and
many encampments, both empty and being setup.
Area on top of the rock overlooking Forest Hills St.
Location of repeated heroin use.
About a half dozen encampments that go in and out of use.
On a hill overlooking the Shattuck Campus.
Benches near Ellicott Arch where there is regular use. I
witnessed both heroin deals and active shooting up at the
Place where the first picture of this page was taken, and
people were openly using heroin. Needles and a toy were found
here. It is an area frequented by children.
So where do we go from here? I do not have all the answers and
am just some Joe Schmo from the nearby neighborhood. I do think
we can do better; not only for the community but also for those
that are seeking treatment. Not only are these not mutually
exclusive, but they are also intertwined. Everybody loses when
there is a growth of open heroin usage near where services are
placed for those seeking treatment. It is not good for the
health of the community, nor is it good for preventing
temptation and relapse for the patient.
Marylou Sudders and her team informed the community of
their decision to place the cottages at the Shattuck campus,
they came with rehearsed talking points. The main talking point
was their intention of being a good neighbor. This has not been
the situation so far. There were no mechanisms put into place
to mitigate heroin use in the area. Since placement of the
cottages, there has been no evaluation of impact, nor outreach
to the community. People from Mass and Cass were moved here,
and 100% success was declared without any learnings. I believe
now is the time to start learning from what is not working and
start finding solutions that do work. Mechanisms and plans put
into place are needed to both prevent and mitigate heroin use
in the vicinity.
We, as a community, need to have
local heroin use mitigated before bringing in another group of
people trying to move on from addiction. In a high-density
complex on Washington St. within the nearby neighborhood, 140
houses for the homeless are being added. This is likely low
threshold housing for those still struggling with addiction to
heroin. This housing is not yet finished but is expected to be
finished the Spring of 2024. It is also the largest of its kind;
a capacity that is almost 5 times larger than the cottages on the
Shattuck Campus. Having heroin use encampments in nearby Franklin
Park will make it near impossible for this population to get back
on its feet.
Pine St Inn location and relative size added
Now is the time to start having a dialogue to move forward to a
better place. Before expanding services nearby, we need to
learn from the services already put in place. There needs to be
true outreach and involvement of the community. I do not know
how to move this forward. There are a few of us starting to get
together, but I hope those with great ideas and influence can
help. Hopefully, this website and my observations can help
things move in the right direction.
Let's leave this place better than we found it. Let's do what's
best for the community and those addicted to opioids. Let's not
sacrifice Franklin Park, the nearby neighborhoods, and those
addicted to opioids in order to reduce the heat politicians are
feeling about Mass and Cass.
If you find needles in the park, use the 311 mobile app to get
it cleaned up. The mobile app will add GPS coordinates making
cleanup easier for those picking up the needles (Dana, Leroy,
David, and company):
Beyond 311, I am not aware of any resources to prevent, stop,
or mitigate the situation.
Below are some pictures taken within
the park in the last month. At the tabs at the top of this page
are sources for more pictures. The tab labeled Franklin Park
Pictures contains date and location information for each