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Housing for veterans deserves support

Everyone is in favor of housing the homeless, and caring for veterans who have served their country in uniform — until a project is proposed. Then residents of the immediate neighborhood raise questions about the location.

That’s especially true if the project would serve people with mental illness. Suddenly, some other location must be a better choice. It’s never clear where that should be.

That’s certainly the case with a proposed project that eventually could add 16 apartment units to a parcel of land at the southwest corner of Stewart and South Columbus avenues. Columbia Care Services wants to build the transitional housing units to serve homeless veterans with a range of circumstances. An on-site resident manager would provide peer support to residents.

At least one neighbor has raised questions about safety, noting that the project is near South Medford High School. That’s an overreaction.

Columbia Care already operates eight units at that location. If there were safety issues, surely some would have surfaced by now.

The concerned neighbor said he emailed Columbia Care with questions, but received no response. That’s unfortunate, but the proposal will be the subject of a public hearing at noon today before the city’s Site Plan and Architectural Commission on the third floor of City Hall, part of the usual approval process for new construction projects. Neighbors and anyone else with concerns should be able to get their questions answered there.

It’s no secret that this community and others around the state are experiencing a housing crisis. Not enough housing units are available, and rents are beyond the means of many residents. Mental illness places an additional obstacle in the way of some of those who need housing.

Efforts to address this problem when funding is available — as it is for homeless veterans — should be applauded, not resisted. Especially when an established community agency is already operating housing units in a responsible manner, it should be able to expand those services to meet the needs of more clients.

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