Mayor Michelle Wu said the city has provided shelters to 154 homeless people from Mass and Cass during its resettlement efforts, although work – and crowds – remain in the troubled area, where two deaths are ongoing.
Wu held an hour-long news conference outside the Pine Street Inn shelter in the South End on Thursday after city workers swarmed around the Mass and Cass area a mile south, evicting homeless people from the large entrenched camps there and removing dozens of tents in place.
According to police, no one was arrested during the operation. Wu said the only incident was a stabbing, which police “de-escalated.”
Wu, flanked by various officials from her administration, including her Mass and Cass Empress Dr. Monica Bharel and Area Police Chief of Operations BPD Lt. Peter Messina said the city has offered a variety of short-term housing options to 154 people in Mass and Cass, including those that have recently been created such as the cottages on Shattuck Hospital’s campus or the Roundhouse Hotel. Officials said people do not have to be sober to stay in these places.
“This was really due to public health and housing,” Wu told reporters.
She said the next step for the South End area, also known as Newmarket or, more derogatorily, Methadone Mile, is a thorough cleanup over the next few days. The area, covered by more than 100 tents since the summer, got so dirty that nearby city workers and even rats got sick.
Wu said, “We didn’t solve the homelessness problem yesterday, but this is an important step because the camps posed a very specific and particular set of dangers to residents and our city. It was extremely unsafe living in tents.”
She and Bharel said anyone who returns to the area and tries to set up a tent will first be contacted by field workers, but if they don’t use the city’s services, authorities will eventually remove the tent.
Bharel said there was a sudden “influx” of people into the area in the few days leading up to Wednesday’s actions. Bharel said some of the people said the fact that the city would provide services brought them to the area from outside. She said they were given shelters and then workers tried to set them up for people from other countries in their hometowns.
Officials said around 40 people were back in the area Thursday as problems of open-air drug trafficking and use continued even without the tents. When asked about this, Wu talked about efforts to create more housing and services in the city. She added, “Our focus will be on working with small businesses, neighbors and people who live and work in the area to ensure we can put the neighborhood in order too.”
Wu and her team were forced to speak out over chants from protesters shouting “shame on Wu” through a megaphone, while opposition from some law enforcement groups to the vaccination mandate continues to follow the mayor through the city in the days before the rule begins this weekend.
BPD Lt. Peter Messina confirmed the city had found two bodies in Mass and Cass in the past week. None appear to be from physical trauma, although homicide detectives were called to one in Newmarket Square on Monday as a precaution, police officers said. The cause and nature remain the subject of the investigation.