Although Boston officials began the process of removing encampments around the Mass and Cass area on Monday morning, it was not easy to walk through Atkinson and Southampton streets this afternoon.
Workers began on Monday preparing people living in settlements near the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, commonly known as Mass and Cass, to gather their belongings and leave the area. in agreement with an executive order from Acting Mayor Kim Janey. Tents and temporary shelters are no longer allowed on the city’s public roads, a measure aimed at tackling what authorities call a “public health crisis” posed by the structures.
But Monday did not see a mass exodus. What appeared to be dozens of tents and other makeshift accommodation lined the streets on Monday afternoon, sometimes overtaking sidewalks and forcing pedestrians to close in on traffic.
As Boston develops procedures to fully implement the new executive order, city employees will issue notices saying the tents must be removed, according to a city spokesperson, adding that no one will be asked to. move their tent without first being offered shelter.
It is clear that the city plan will not be an easy process. For her part, Janey stressed that the process of eliminating Mass and Cass should focus on treating people with dignity, giving proper notice and the ability for people to remove their shelters and, among other guidelines, not criminalize the status of a homeless individual, a person with a substance use disorder or a person with a mental illness.
“The last thing any of us want to do is re-victimize or traumatize those who need support and services,” she told reporters on Monday.
Part of the effort has come from shelter providers, who reserve beds for those arriving. Pine Street Inn President and CEO Lyndia Downie told GBH News there is no perfect way to tackle homelessness and addiction issues in Mass and Cass. .
“We have to throw so much on the wall and see what sticks and what will work for people, because there is no perfect system for this level of dependence and complexity around health, public safety issues. , public health and housing issues, âshe said.
Downie said the city is working to balance harm reduction with public safety and health. And while there was a constant stream of criticism of Janey’s plan, Downie pointed out that if there was enough support already, then people wouldn’t be on Mass and Cass in the first place.
âAnd so I think we’re all trying to look at, systemically, you have to do two things: you have to work with people individually and help them find a way. And then you have to strategically work on ‘what’s the system. that we want? âYou have to do both,â she said.
While GBH News couldn’t convince anyone to officially speak to Mass and Cass on Monday, there didn’t seem to be a general sense of urgency around what the city was going to do in the days to come.
One man, Ronald Geddes, said NBC10 Boston that he doesn’t want to be there, but he doesn’t want to go to a shelter either.
âI don’t want to live on the streets, I don’t want to live in a tent, I want to live in a house like everyone else,â he said.