The intention to establish a ‘safe sleeping place’ for homeless individuals in Boston has sparked concerns among locals who fear it might transform into an open-air drug market. The city aims to clear expansive encampments in the Mass and Cass area due to escalating violence and rampant drug use. Mayor Michelle Wu, along with city officials, announced this decision, currently in the process of being formalized through city law and an ordinance.
The strategy involves enabling police to remove tents and makeshift structures on Atkinson Street, which will subsequently be closed. A new short-term shelter is proposed, with accommodation for up to 30 homeless people. However, residents are apprehensive that this initiative could lead to an increase in drug-related activities in their neighborhoods. A city official has reassured that drugs will be prohibited within the structure, and comprehensive security measures will be implemented around the clock.
The encampment at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard has become a hub for drug use and violence, as stated by law enforcement. Mayor Wu emphasized that the aim is to provide better living conditions for those currently residing in crowded and hazardous encampments. The proposal necessitates city council approval, with Mayor Wu planning to submit an ordinance for council consideration.
The plans ensure that people living in the encampments are offered proper housing, necessary treatment services, transportation, and storage options for their belongings before the removal of tents. While hundreds gather around the encampments, only 30 individuals are reported to be staying overnight. The temporary shelter, located near a Boston Medical Center building on Massachusetts Avenue, will provide clinical services for men, women, and couples.
While this proposal is intended as a short-term solution, some residents are concerned about the potential burden it might impose on their neighborhoods. Despite assurances from city officials, some community members remain skeptical about the effectiveness of this approach and its potential impact on the area’s drug problem.
The ordinance being considered would not be limited to the Mass and Cass area alone but would extend citywide to prevent the issue from merely relocating. Police Commissioner Michael Cox mentioned plans to deploy mobile units and maintain a continuous presence in the area to prevent any negative consequences from arising. In addition to the temporary beds, the city is expanding low-threshold shelter spaces in emergency shelters as part of its effort to address homelessness in the region.