By Irvin Zhang
As customers funnel in and out through the glass post office doors, Branden Lyons greets them with a smile, invites them forward and offers them assistance. On this sunny winter afternoon, a line of four people form to ship packages or pick up mail.
Lyons, 35, is a former resident of Mission Hill during the ‘90s when he attended Wentworth Institute of Technology for a degree in construction management. Almost two decades later, he has been working at the post office on the Hill for almost nine years. He said he’s noticed immense changes both within its residents and the overall community.
“For instance, you have college students now who live in the projects when back in the day, when I lived around here, you wouldn’t see anybody in the projects at all of any other race except for black and hispanic,” Lyons said. “People were scared to live there because of the crime and the drugs. It used to be different in Boston in the ‘90s.”
Lyons, a Massachusetts native and a current resident of Roxbury, mentioned gentrification as the primary cause of the change. Lyons acknowledges the improved safety around the community but pointed out the harm it’s causing to lower income residents, referencing schools like Northeastern University who have been active in buying apartments in the area and raising the rent.
“But it’s bad in a way because they’re raising the price of rent and raising the rates so that people can’t afford to live around here anymore,” Lyons said. “A lot of people that grew up around here, if they don’t have subsidized housing or Section 8, they can’t afford to live here anymore.”