Editorial: Let's Protect Elderly & Disabled Tenants from COVID-19

Storm clouds loom over apartment building
In Essex County, there are unofficial reports of current cases of COVID-related deaths and illness in public and subsidized housing. This as just the beginning of what can swiftly become a statewide disaster unless there is rapid and immediate implementation of protocols based on best practices and enforcement of public health rulings. For this, we need new legislation.

Open Letter to the Joint Committee on Public Health

The purpose of the recently passed law, Acts (2020) Chapter 93, https://malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2020/Chapter93 is to protect the public health. As tenants in public and subsidized housing for elderly and disabled people, we are highly vulnerable to infection and severe outcomes. Only good information, openly and transparently available, can alert us and the public to a local danger and enable us to make renewed efforts at personal and community protection. Our housing providers in too many cases simply do not care to do their part, and with information we can hold them accountable. The Governor is voiding provisions of that act of the Legislature which he had signed into law on June 7, 2020 by failing to implement certain provisions in a timely fashion. The law mandated the Department of Public Health to collect and publish data on infections and deaths from COVID-19 in a timely and transparent fashion covering "elder care facilities," defined in that act to include

A Strong Ombuds

Our proposed modifications of S985 will provide protection for victims of bullying and accountability for the landlord. We speak from the perspective of tenants and others who are familiar with the realities of bullying in multifamily housing, and based on extensive observation, research, and testimony. Bullying is extremely harmful to elderly and disabled persons living in multifamily housing. In law, the landlord is responsible for assuring peaceful enjoyment, but the tenant has no feasible way to be protected from bullying or to hold the landlord to account.

Now We Must Stop the Retaliation: An Open Letter to Legislators, the Governor, and the People

No one deserves to endure hostility in their home, to be driven out by malice, or to be pursued by retaliation. Ms. Pamela Goodwin is one of the most unfailingly honest, compassionate people I have ever known, diligent in her pursuit of fairness and justice for all those that come into her view. We present here a well-documented history of alleged bullying, mobbing, and retaliation against Ms. Goodwin. Our purpose is not to seek justice or revenge, but to bring these issues to the attention of Beacon Hill, Governor Baker, and to the public.

Outreach, Community Organization & Advocacy

 Andrew DeFranza, the Executive Director of Harborlight Community Partners presents at CHAPA meeting in Peabody
The strategy of the Stop Bullying Coalition is to continue seeking action on Beacon Hill, and doing outreach and education in local communities. This outreach work will help empower tenants to organize in their housing developments, to do community outreach, and to build local coalitions that can educate their communities as well as grow our roster of advocates.

Peace in the housing community

There is a dynamic in some public and subsidized housing communities for the elderly and disabled that reminds of the witchcraft hysteria in 1692-1693 and of current social and political polarization in our world. In a typical housing community composed of a diverse group of individuals, if there is to be peace and fairness for all, everyone needs to agree to accept and live within a code of conduct that does not require total conformity.

Testimony on Bullying Bills Before the Joint Committee on Housing

Senator Brendan Crighton and Representative Kevin Honan, Chairs of the Joint Committee on Housing
Today, victims of bullying have no hope because we have no protection, no remedy, and no justice. Tomorrow, you, our legislators can give us hope and restore our rights. Senator Lovely’s bill, S985—the ombuds bill—will ensure the 92,000 elderly and persons with disability who live in public and subsidized housing of their right to peaceful enjoyment.

Testimony of Jerry Halberstadt on S791—task force on safety & welfare

We strongly support the creation of a joint task force on the safety and welfare of elderly and disabled persons residing in public housing as proposed in S791 by Senator Diana DiZoglio. This task force will complement the findings of the Commission on Bullying and can lead to legislative and administrative changes that can complement the goals of the bills on bullying.