Last Friday, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Police Commissioner Michael Cox announced a major change in the city’s handling of the Mass. and Cass identified the well-known area where the region’s homelessness and drug use crises converge.
in one blog entry On Monday, Wu explained the reasoning behind the plan, which aims to empower police to clear tents while freeing up emergency shelters for those displaced nearby.
Wu also filed a lawsuit regulation Montag would give the green light to the plan. The Boston City Council is scheduled to consider it later this week, with Wu awaiting their approval.
In her Substack post, Wu provided an overview of recent history leading to the current situation in Mass. and Cass, where safety concerns have recently increased. Hailing the achievements of her administration, she described the new plans as a “duplication” of the city’s current, successful approach.
Since city policy has reduced the proportion of people who need low-threshold housing, the number of people who have living space, but still made to measure, has increased. and Cass travel to commit crimes, Wu wrote. Drug trafficking, human trafficking, violence and stockpiling of weapons are in moderation. and Cass are all concerns. Because of this, some of the city’s community partners have decided to pull their outreach workers out of the area this summer to protect them.
Public safety issues are eroding the valuable housing and recovery services offered to people who need them, Wu wrote. Much of the criminal activity in Mass. and Cass takes place outside of the public in tents and tarpaulin constructions.
As recently as 2021, hundreds lived in the area in tents and buildings fortified with timber and building materials. In early 2022, a few months after taking office as mayor, Wu approved a major project to clear these semi-permanent buildings and relocate those in need of protection. While this succeeded in the short term, Wu wrote, makeshift tents and tarps still turn up after every street sweep, particularly on Atkinson Street.
Cox told Wu that his officials need the authority to vacate the makeshift buildings more quickly because the current 48-hour notice period “makes it difficult to consider the urgency of the public safety and drug trafficking issues in the area.” So the new regulation gives officials that power while being “carefully tailored to protect the rights of those in need of housing and services, with clear requirements for available and accessible housing and appropriate storage of personal belongings,” Wu wrote.
The goal, Wu wrote, is to remove tents to discourage criminal activity while ensuring no one is left without a place to sleep. The city has noted that a “relatively small” number of people in Mass. and Cass live in tents because they have no other suitable housing options. While the tents are being taken down, the city is setting up up to 30 new beds at the nearby Boston Public Health Commission’s Miranda Creamer Building. Wu addressed concerns from local residents, people from Mass. and relocate Cass closer to their homes and businesses.
“Although neighbors have been concerned about building more social service infrastructure in this area (and even closer to the community), we need to create an overflow to absorb the impact of this significant change and will close the site once all are present.” Individuals have moved to permanent housing or to one of the city’s low-threshold locations,” she wrote.
Wu hopes to simultaneously restore Atkinson Street to a viable street while preventing new camps from springing up in other neighborhoods. As such, the Boston Police Department will maintain a 24/7 presence on Atkinson Street to enforce the ordinance and deploy “coordinated mobile response units” to other parts of the city. In these units, police officers and public health workers will be tasked with preventing new camps. The effort will be conducted from a central operations post near Mass. and Cass coordinates where plans can be adjusted in real time.
In her post, Wu attempted to correlate these plans with previous efforts to clear Mass. and Cass to compare. This is not a return to the “failed strategies of the sweeps” or an admission of failure, she wrote. According to the mayor, the plans should be successful due to progress made in expanding the city’s public health and housing infrastructure.
“It is precisely because of the advances in our public health-focused approach that we are able to take new steps together with our partners to stabilize the area and make the transition to a safe and effective outreach system,” Wu wrote.
In her post, Wu also responded to reports that Councilwoman Tania Fernandes Anderson was at Mass over the weekend. and Cass was mugged. Fernandes Anderson was reportedly in the area gathering information for herself ahead of the vote on Wu’s new plans when her phone was stolen. Boston cops helped her get it back.
The existence of tents on Atkinson Street made it difficult to recover her phone, Wu wrote.
“I am very grateful that she is safe and that BPD officers on the scene were able to help get her belongings back that night. We are hearing from our public health workers and city workers in the area that incidents of violence related to tents and tarpaulins occur daily, and we must take steps to keep our communities safe,” she wrote.
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