A new homeless camp rises near Mass. and Cass

A new encampment of tents, tarps and makeshift houses has sprung up in Newmarket Square, just around the corner of the now empty hallway near Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard where hundreds lived just a few weeks ago.

About 30 tents, a fraction of the number that were present nearby, reappeared along Theodore Glynn Way, a few blocks from where the city authorities carried out a “general cleaningearlier this month. The street connects the avenue and Southampton Street.

Of the approximately 300 people who lived near Mass. and Cass, according to a Boston Public Health Commission tally, 66 people have been moved to transitional housing, shelter or treatment center, the city of Boston said in a statement. Of those people, 13 people were placed “on pathways leading to transitional housing,” 21 went to shelters and 32 were placed in residential treatment, according to city officials.

Malakai, who asked GBH News not to use his last name, was at the new camp on Tuesday. He handed a man a pocket full of change in exchange for a sleeping bag, then carried the mass of crumpled fabric to his tent. “It was not a decision to come here,” he said.

Malakai, 46, said he was trying to get transitional housing, but did not want to return to a shelter. The only refuge he loves, in Harvard Square, has a lottery scheme that he finds nearly impossible to navigate. He says he was the victim of mistreatment and abuse at other shelters offered to displaced people in Mass. and Cass.

“The shelter staff are paid to do what they do, and they give you an attitude like you chose their job, whereas they chose compassionate work – but they don’t,” he said. he declared.

City officials shouldn’t be surprised that a new encampment has appeared nearby, Malakai said. It was only a matter of time.

“When you force someone into a corner, you are asking for trouble,” he said. “You ask for problems.”

A new camp in Newmarket Square on Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Tori Bedford / GBH News

Earlier this week, then Acting Mayor Kim Janey submitted a request for information for providers who can help evolve transitional housing and other services for homeless people, including including health centers and low threshold shelters. The Office of Health and Human Services has given providers a Nov. 22 deadline to respond.

“Last month we declared homelessness, substance use disorders and mental illness a public health crisis in Boston,” Janey said in a statement. “We need to respond to the urgency of this moment with more resources for people facing these challenges. “

State officials confirmed to GBH News on Monday that part of the 13-acre Shattuck Hospital campus in Jamaica Plain will be converted to a “temporary cottage community” in December.

Up to 30 homeless people will be accommodated in low-threshold transitional housing “in their transition from the street to permanent housing and longer-term stability,” wrote Maylou Sudders, Secretary of Health and Services. social. residents of South End and Roxbury. “The safety of residents as well as hospital staff, patients and surrounding areas is paramount. “


“When you force someone into a corner, you are asking for trouble.”

Malakai

Peter, a 46-year-old man with a physical disability, said he had been on a waiting list for transitional housing for four and a half years – and had been homeless for five years.

“I no longer go to shelters. I stay outside, and it’s just easier that way, ”said Peter, who asked that his last name not be used. “They run shelters like a prison, instead of helping people get back on their feet and check their homes. “

He said he had previously been forced to relocate, relocate and return to makeshift homes in the neighborhood.

“They keep changing their minds and bouncing us like I’m a pinball machine or something,” said Peter. “They just don’t know what to do. They keep moving everyone around until the circle is complete, and you are in exactly the same place as before. They tried to shut everything down, then they gathered a group of people on the street. … It always comes back to what it was before.

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Peter stands in front of his tent in Newmarket Square on November 16, 2021

Tori Bedford / GBH News

In 2019, former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh led “Operation Clean Sweep,” a raid on homeless settlements near Mass. and Cass, which resulted in dozens of arrests. Slowly the camp was rebuilt, until Janey’s “general cleanup”.

In a complaint filed earlier this month, ACLU officials compared Janey’s approach to the 2019 sweep, saying displacing people without providing them with proper housing violates their civil rights.

“We have to find a solution other than to think that we can stop our outing,” Carol Rose, executive director of the Massachusetts ACLU, told GBH News in an interview. “When you have a law enforcement response to a public health crisis, it will simply fail. This is not just a theoretical question, we have lived it because it failed between August 2019 and now. “

A Suffolk Superior Court judge is due to hold a hearing in the ACLU trial on Wednesday morning.

Janey pushed back on comparisons to sweeps in the past, arguing her administration had taken “a lot of steps to make sure we approach this with a public health lens, making sure we don’t allow people to continue. to talk in tents and camps, when the real problem [is] people ”, in an interview earlier this week on GBH’s Boston Public Radio.

She declined to comment on the ACLU lawsuit, emphasizing the “public health approach” and reiterating that “no one is invited to leave without adequate housing options for them”.

Although the majority of people brought to a special hearing for the people of Mass. and Cass were charged with minor drug offenses, Janey told Boston Public Radio that “the arrests that took place were due to warrants that existed – drug trafficking, human trafficking, things. Of this genre.

Mayor Michelle Wu, who was sworn in on Tuesday, told reporters at a press conference earlier this month that she was investigating incidents, first reported by GBH News, of people brought to a makeshift courthouse in Suffolk County Jail while queuing for methadone.

“It would be unacceptable,” Wu said. “There is a clear understanding among people around the table today that this is not something that should never happen.”

Wu last week appointed former Dr Monica Bharel, former commissioner of the state’s public health department, to oversee efforts in the region over the next six months as Tsar of Mass. and Cass.

In a statement, Wu said Boston would “prioritize public health and housing, and emphasize the safety and dignity of all people with substance use disorders, health mental and unstable housing “.


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