Last month, the City set today as the deadline for the removal of the tents and the directing of inhabitants to low threshold, supportive housing
On Jan. 12, the City took down tents stationed at in the area by Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, addressing what some have called a humanitarian crisis. Mayor Michelle Wu said on Monday that she expected many of the tents to be moved by Wednesday, with the people who had been living there being moved to transitional housing. On Jan. 10, Wu spoke at a press conference at City Hall about the situation.
“Our efforts here, at Mass and Cass, have been driven by a public health and housing-led approach,” said Wu. “The encampments that we see and that some individuals have been living in for a number of years, at this point, are not a safe or healthy place for anyone to be living. There’s no heat, no running water, poor sanitation. We’ve seen a number of fires, because folks are trying to stay a little bit warm with propane tanks. We have seen ongoing issues around frostbite and hypothermia, as the temperatures drop. And so, we’re really approaching past the point of urgency here.”
Chief of Housing Sheila Dillon addressed where the individuals who had lived in the tents would be moving to next.
“The City has been working with the State and many of our nonprofit partners to bring on a low threshold housing and shelter space to those now living in the Mass Cass area,” said Dillon. She added, “Those spaces, as has been mentioned, [will provide] decent, warm, and safe housing, but also every program that has been brought on has 24 hour staffing, to ensure that the residents are safe and receiving the services that they need. … In addition, as the individuals that are now living in Mass Cass go into these transitional spaces, they will be given the supports and the housing search workers to help them get into treatment and permanent supportive housing. That work will start as soon as they are stabilized.”
The area has become known as the center of Greater Boston’s substance abuse epidemic. According to an article in the Boston Globe, approximately 140 people had been living in the tent encampment. At the press conference, Wu said that the work to remove the tents will take more than a day.
Shira Laucharoen is a reporter based in Boston. She currently serves as the assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. In the past she has written for Sampan newspaper, The Somerville Times, Scout Magazine, Boston Magazine, and WBUR.