BOSTON - The area of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard has long been known for rampant public drug use, but Boston Mayor Michelle Wu says the problem is escalating.
"Even the outreach workers who have been out there day after day after day are not feeling comfortable, not feeling like they can physically safely be there anymore," Wu explained. "And so at this point it is just our city teams out there."
The city of Boston keeps track of activity in the area. In the period of time from May 2022 to July 2022, there were roughly 300 to 400 EMS calls per week. In that same period of time from May 2023 to July 2023, there were roughly 700 to 900 calls per week.
"With additional drug activity, human trafficking, activity, and violence, the number of emergency calls has gone up significantly," Mayor Wu said, citing the anonymity the tents provide for inappropriate and illegal behavior. "In the last month or so we have had several concerning incidents, including some related to our officers. There are those that have been pepper sprayed, or worse, or stabbings."
Wu said while 200 transitional housing units created by the city helped hundreds of people with substance use disorder, hundreds more have come to the area even from other states.
In the short term, the city has created transitional housing units for 200 people and conducts daily street sweeps to keep the area clean.
In the long term, there is a controversial proposal to convert 850 beds at Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Jamaica Plain to substance use treatment beds that could help people at Mass and Cass.
In addition, Mayor Wu told WBZ the city is in the final steps of the permitting process to rebuild the bridge to a treatment center at Long Island in Boston Harbor. "We are going to be full steam ahead as a city in reactivating Long Island...and understanding how they can fit in with the plans for the Shattuck," she said.
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