February 17, 2021

In many cities, rent prices soar to a point where many people cannot afford them, so many of those people rely on affordable housing to live in the same area. Mark Fortes, who currently lives in a single room occupancy (SRO) at the Haley House in Boston’s South End, has been sporadically homeless for the majority of his life. Throughout this time, he has moved from the suburbs 50 miles from Downtown Boston in western Massachusetts to where he resides now.

Fortes said isolation is a common experience while being homeless.

“I have experienced many times where people look down at you. A lot of people who are homeless have a lot of mental issues from my experience or drugs or some type of substance abuse,” Fortes said.

The Haley House offers 109 affordable housing units in their Low Income Housing program and a Live-In Community located on 23 Dartmouth Street. In addition to their housing programs, the Haley House provides opportunities for individuals to enjoy made-from-scratch meals and participate in their Urban Farming program, which includes the Thornton Street Farm and the McKinley Garden.

According to Epstein, understanding the state of impacted homeless individuals brings light to their futures. It provides the public an understanding of how the system works and what specific outlets are available to those in need. Epstein said he now understands the struggles of living as a homeless person.

“The other day I was kayaking and before the weather got too cold, I went on the Neponset River and it goes under 93. Sure enough, as I paddled under the bridge, there was a homeless encampment under the expressway,” Epstein said. “Someone just the other day was found dead along the banks of the Charles River. They had been living in a tent there, and the working theory is that they were exposed and hypothermia set in.”

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