By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com January 07 2003 1:00 AM ET
Residents of Fitchburg, Mass., are lining up against a planned move by the Gardner Visiting Nurses Association, a group that provides HIV/AIDS care and other services, to a new facility across the street from a field used primarily by schoolchildren, The Boston Globe reports. The organization had planned to move from a cramped and dilapidated storefront space near the center of town to a converted mill about a mile away, but residents of the town have lobbied against the move, saying the center could put drug users and dealers in close proximity to children.
Open 11 hours per week, the center serves homeless, sick, and drug-addicted people with housing, health care, and detox referrals; it also distributes free food, clothing, and toiletries. About 55% of the agency's clients are homeless, and about 36% are injection-drug users.
Fitchburg's mayor, who initially supported the relocation, has withdrawn his backing and said he will find a suitable alternative. However, VNA already renovated the new location and signed a long-term lease. Jean McGuire, HIV/AIDS director for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which funds the VNA center, said unless the situation is resolved soon, the financial losses associated with the lease and renovations coupled with the ongoing controversy could result in the program being shut down.