Months after clearing the homeless encampment known as Mass. and Cass, Boston city leaders on Tuesday outlined next steps to address the homelessness and substance abuse crises that helped create the settlement.
Mayor Michelle Wu detailed an 11-point plan to improve public safety, health and cleanliness in the area around Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, as well as reduce overcrowding and prevent new encampments from forming. , in spring and summer, when the weather is warm.
These are, as published by the city:
- Promote public safety through the Boston Police Department and Boston Public Health Commission Public Safety
- Increase the presence of joint public health and public safety awareness teams
- Prevent encampments
- Increase street cleaning
- Promote a safe environment to access services at the Engagement Center
- Increase Parking Enforcement
- Make the neighborhood more beautiful and more walkable
- Increase range
- Open new day centers outside the neighborhood
- Provide transportation and referrals to day centers outside the neighborhood
- Strengthen support services in accommodation and low-threshold accommodation sites
She and her team, from across city government, also announced a new strategy to address homelessness in the city:
Mass. and Cass had become an outdoor drug market last year, one that was becoming increasingly dangerous for residents and neighbors. The city has spent weeks preparing area residents for a deadline to move out, and the last tents were cleared on January 13.
“We’re looking to build on that,” Wu said Tuesday.
More than 150 homeless people have been transferred to transitional accommodation in the Mass camp. and Cass of Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu said, but she warned homelessness was solved.
About 150 people previously living in tents in the encampments have been referred to housing or outreach programs, according to the city.
In March, NBC Boston found that the tents were still gone, but the drugs and crime remained. Groups of people were still gathering and two men had been arrested in the neighborhood within a week for human sex trafficking, raising familiar safety concerns despite an increased police presence.
Boston Police Lt. Pete Messina, part of the city’s new initiative, gave an example on Tuesday of the public safety challenges faced by officers and their partners. He said a person had recently been arrested selling drugs. Officers found them with several types of drugs, cash, and a pellet gun that looked like a real gun.
The person was unrepentant, he told officers, and didn’t want to get sober: “They had already tried to get sober and they didn’t like it,” Messina explained.
One of the big concerns of people working on homelessness is the concentration of shelters, methadone clinics and homeless assistance in Mass. and Cass. Some believe that these services should be dispersed.
“Do I think decentralization makes sense? Of course, of course it does. But where are you going to decentralize?” said Lyndia Downie, executive director of Pine Street Inn, in March.
We spent three weeks in the Mass area. and Cass to track the people who live there.
Ms Wu stressed on Tuesday the importance of expanding services across the city – she has heard throughout the process that what people from other communities do not want is for the encampment to be moved in its entirety to another part of town.
“It’s really about getting to the root causes, changing the dynamic,” she said, noting that part of the reason the momentum formed was that services had been concentrated in a single domain.
Sue Sullivan, who represents business owners in the Newmarket area, said while things are improving, they still see problems.
“There’s been a real renewed commitment to drug and dealer arrests and sex trafficking arrests and I’ll tell you, that’s thinning the crowds,” Sullivan said.
Gerry DiPierro of DiPierro Construction hopes the latest plan will do what other plans for the area have failed to accomplish.
“We’re gutted at this point, and we’re just trying to make the best of it, until someone is able to do something about it,” he said.