Record cold triggers emergency services outreach

By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, DEC. 28, 2017....Shelters have put out extra cots and homeless people across Massachusetts have hustled and improvised ways to keep warm these past few days.

As of midday Thursday, no one in Massachusetts had died on account of the abnormal cold snap that has chilled the region, according to the Office of Public Safety and Security.

The frigid temperatures are a particular challenge for those without their own place to call home.

Michaelann Bewsee, of Arise for Social Justice in Springfield, said all of the shelters in western Massachusetts were at capacity on Wednesday and people were turned away. She was particularly worried about a man and woman she spoke to last week who were living out of a tent because they didn't want to be separated at a shelter.

"I hope that they're not found dead in the spring," Bewsee told the News Service. "I hope that they're willing to put up with being separated in this weather."

While much of Massachusetts is frozen solid, an array of nonprofit and government workers  leapt into action to help homeless people get indoors with a place to sleep and food to eat, according to spokespeople and advocates.

Members of the public can help, too, by donating hand-warmers, coats, and winter clothes, said Karen LaFrazia, the president and CEO of St. Francis House in Boston.

St. Francis, which offers services for homeless people during the day, has opened its doors earlier in the morning to accommodate people on the street, many of whom have mental health or other issues that make it difficult for them to negotiate a shelter, LaFrazia told the News Service. On Christmas, a woman arrived at the day shelter located on the outskirts of Chinatown wearing flip flops.

"It took all of our collective efforts to convince her to put on socks and shoes," LaFrazia said.

Christmas was the last time local temperatures rose above freezing, according to Lenore Correia, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. The cold weather is projected to continue "for at least another week," she said on Thursday. Around New Year's of 1918, Boston experienced a seven-day stretch where temperatures hovered at or below 20 degrees, and the region might tie that record now, a century later, Correia said.

Boston shelters added 65 beds on Wednesday night to the roughly 1,500 beds available to homeless people, according to City Hall. Shelters have added cots and offered sleeping bags, according to Kelly Turley, associate director of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.

Some people have had bad experiences with shelters, and many people without a home will spend time in fast food restaurants, emergency rooms, and even Logan Airport as they "try to be as creative as possible and under the radar," Turley said.

"We work closely with the City, State, and Massachusetts State Police Troop F to help find appropriate shelter and assistive services for vulnerable populations at Logan Airport who may be exposed to these dangerous temperatures," said Kelly Smith, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Port Authority.

Boston's safety net has worked pretty well for a 26-year-old homeless man who grew up in Cambridge and agreed to talk to the News Service on the condition that his name not be used. Spending his days at St. Francis House or the library and his nights at Boston shelters – where he said he has not had trouble finding a bed – the man who wore a scarf and gloves from St. Francis said he has not been particularly bothered by the cold. He said he has been homeless for more than a year.

St. Francis has been busy. The shelter usually gives out about 600 meals per day, and on Thursday the shelter gave out 1,054, according to LaFrazia.

The incidence of frostbite appears to have dropped over the past decade, according to Dr. Cathy Pierce, who works at the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Clinic at St. Francis. She credited more publicity about the risks the cold can present, efforts to bring people indoors, and more beds.

However, Pierce cautioned that as the subfreezing temperatures continue, she might start seeing more symptoms of exposure.

"It'll start getting worse," LaFrazia predicted. On Thursday morning a man came into St. Francis shaking from the cold and with purple hands, she said.

Clinic staff have noticed a slight uptick in "trench foot" from wet footwear.

Outreach workers from the Department of Mental Health and Pine Street Inn – who are funded by the Department of Public Health – have scoured the streets to encourage people living there to find shelter, according to the Office of Housing and Economic Development. The Department of Mental Health funds or operates 10 homeless outreach teams, and in fiscal year 2017 the department enrolled 2,667 individuals in services through homeless outreach, according to an aide.

Homeless people sometimes shelter in MBTA stations, staying tucked away even after service shuts down. Since the extreme cold began, the T has allowed people to "shelter in place at South Station," said MBTA Police Superintendent Richard Sullivan, who said there are "additional police officers present particularly during the overnight hours to ensure everyone's safety and well being."

Gov. Charlie Baker bonded with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh three years ago when bitter cold and mounds of snow tested the region's ability to handle some of the worst weather in memory.

The Department of Housing and Community Development is funding winter overflow beds at the Boston Rescue Mission, Friends of the Homeless, Father Bill's, and CASPAR, helping ensure people have transportation to shelters and organizing daily calls that include Boston officials.

The bad weather gives people a good opportunity to "show acts of kindness and compassion," said LaFrazia, suggesting that proprietors could allow homeless people to relax in their establishments and others could buy them a cup of coffee or a soup.

"There is more goodwill during the extreme cold weather," said Turley, who cautioned that businesses "don’t want to become de facto shelters."

Senate confirms new federal prosecutor for Massachusetts

By Colin A. Young
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed President Donald Trump's nomination of Andrew Lelling as the U.S. attorney for the district of Massachusetts, clearing the way for a new top federal prosecutor to set up shop in Boston.

A 16-year veteran of the Justice Department, Lelling is already familiar with the office, having served most recently as senior litigation counsel in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's Office. He succeeds Acting U.S. Attorney William Weinreb, who took over when Carmen Ortiz resigned in January.

"I am honored to be confirmed as the United States attorney and I look forward to serving the residents of Massachusetts," Lelling said in a statement. "As a federal prosecutor, I have had the privilege of working with some of the best federal and state law enforcement officers in the country. As U.S. attorney, I will continue to collaborate with these distinguished public servants to fulfill the mission of the Department of Justice."

Trump nominated Lelling in September and the Senate confirmed him for a four-year term on a voice vote Thursday.

Lelling will take over the office that last week unsealed a 113-count indictment against former state Sen. Brian Joyce, including charges of racketeering, extortion, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion.

He has also worked as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia and was counsel to the assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.

Lelling graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1994 and earned his bachelor's degree in literature and rhetoric from Binghamton University in 1991. Until recently, he taught an upper-level seminar on securities regulation and enforcement at New England School of Law in Boston, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

Coast Guard suspends search for missing fishermen

The Coast Guard suspended its search Tuesday at 8 p.m. for two missing fishermen near Nantucket, pending the development of new information.
The fishermen originally went missing Monday evening after their boat, Misty Blue, sunk approximately 10 miles southeast of Nantucket. Two other crewmembers were rescued by a nearby good Samaritan.
The Coast Guard, along with state and local agencies and good Samaritans, searched for 42 asset hours, saturating a 1,605 square nautical mile area.
The search included the following assets:
• An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Cape Cod
• An HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft from Air Station Cape Cod
• A 47-foot Motor Lifeboat from Coast Guard Station Brant Point
• Coast Guard Cutter Steelhead, an 87-foot patrol boat
• Coast Guard Cutter Tybee, a 110-foot patrol boat
• Coast Guard Cutter Albacore, an 87-foot patrol boat
• Barnstable County Sheriff
• Dennis Fire Department
• Massachusetts State Police Dive Team
• Fishing vessel Enterprise
• Fishing vessel Mariette

The cause of the sinking is under investigation.

Spencer's crew returns home after busy 90-day patrol

The Coast Guard Cutter Spencer returned home to Boston Tuesday following a highly successful 90-day patrol fighting transnational organized crime networks in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, and training for multi-national search and rescue response in the Arctic.

The crew’s patrol efforts resulted in the interdiction of four drug-laden vessels, the seizure of more than 7,000 pounds of cocaine worth more than $110 million, and the apprehension of 12 suspected smugglers.

Last week, the crew offloaded approximately 10 tons of cocaine and 23 kilograms of heroin in Port Everglades, Florida, worth an estimated $300 million wholesale. The drugs were interdicted along Mexico and Central America by multiple U.S. Coast Guard cutters.

"While this offload represents approximately 10 tons of illicit drugs that will never hit out streets, it also represents a significant depletion to the cash flow to these criminal organizations," said Cdr. John Mctamney, Spencer's commanding officer.

Mctamney said the offload is not just the result of their crew's work, but the combined efforts of multiple Coast Guard cutters, aircraft, and support, as well as those of "our partners and allied men and women who continue to work day and night to stop these criminal organizations from profiting off transnational crime and smuggling."

During their patrol, the Spencer’s crew also participated in the 2017 Arctic Guardian Search and Rescue (SAR) Exercise in Reyjkavik, Iceland. The full-scale, underway exercise included participation by eight Arctic nations working to hone best practices for potential multi-national search and rescue response in the Arctic region.

The cutter Spencer is a 270-foot medium-endurance cutter homeported in Boston with a crew complement of 13 officers and 87 enlisted personnel.

Jacobs kids will compete in Turkey Trot Wednesday morning

Principal Christine Cappadona said that the Lillian M. Jacobs Elementary School will host its ninth annual Turkey Trot at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Following a pep rally at the school  on Harborview Road, fourth- and fifth-grade students compete in the Turkey Trot. Teachers will keep track and record their students’ times as they complete the 1.2-mile race. An awards celebration for all participants and their families will be held in the gym following the race and all students will be awarded with a finisher’s medal and certificate of completion.

The overall winner and the top three girls and boys from each grade will earn additional awards, which were donated by the Hull PTO and Lori Tobin from SporTobin.

In the days leading up to the race, the school is hosting a food drive, where canned goods are collected in classrooms and donated to the local food pantry at Wellspring. Parents and residents who would like to donate to the food drive can drop off items at the school lobby up until Wednesday morning.

"The students have been training all fall for this in their physical education classes and on their own," Cappadona said. "We look forward to the pep rally and the race every year, and it's a great way to begin the Thanksgiving celebration."