Boston makes final push to clear out homeless encampment

Workers have started eradicating the final tents from a homeless encampment at a Boston intersection generally known as Mass and Cass

BOSTON — Workers started eradicating the final tents Wednesday morning from a once-sprawling homeless encampment at a Boston intersection generally known as Mass and Cass.

City public works staff driving bulldozers loaded tents, tarps and different detritus, together with milk crates, picket pallets and coolers, into trash vehicles to be hauled away, and road sweepers moved in as soon as a piece was cleared.

New Mayor Michelle Wu had pledged by Wednesday to get housing for folks dwelling in tents close to the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard.

Wu acknowledged that it could take greater than a day to take away a few of the remaining tents.

“Our aim from the start right here was to take a special strategy, one which was actually grounded within the root causes of homelessness and the crises that persons are dwelling with right here,” Wu, who took workplace in November, stated on the scene.

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Social staff helped individuals who had not but left the camp, whereas police have been additionally on the scene Wednesday. Wu and different metropolis officers have stated that they don’t want to criminalize homelessness, and that officers have been there to hold the peace.

Christopher Berrios, a 28-year-old homeless resident, stated he misplaced his job due to COVID-19 and it was exhausting for him to discover a place to keep given the excessive value of housing.

“The hire out right here in Boston — it’s costly to get an condominium. Even to get a room, it was costly,” he stated. “Before I used to be dwelling with my mother and stuff, however then she ended up transferring to a one-bedroom condominium, so I could not transfer along with her, you realize, as a result of it was a one bed room.”

The metropolis has approached the encampment as a humanitarian and public well being disaster as a result of a lot of its residents have been drawn by methadone clinics and social providers within the space and have been thought-about weak to trafficking and different risks.

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A metropolis survey in December discovered as many as 140 folks dwelling within the camp, the place drug dealing and use typically happens within the open.

Dr. Monica Bharel, the previous state public well being commissioner who’s now main town’s efforts within the space, stated that as of Wednesday morning, greater than 100 individuals who had been dwelling within the encampment had been relocated to momentary housing.

The aim is to finally transfer folks into everlasting housing, metropolis officers stated.

Some stay skeptical of town’s plan, involved that individuals with no the place else to go will proceed to collect within the space.

“Until folks reply questions, I’m very suspicious,” City Councilor Frank Baker stated at a digital neighborhood assembly Tuesday night time. “I’m focused on what that is going to appear to be within the subsequent few months.”

Cleanup of the realm started in October underneath then-acting Mayor Kim Janey, who declared habit and homelessness a public well being emergency.

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The metropolis Public Health Commission cited unhygienic situations, equivalent to a scarcity of running water and bogs, and the susceptibility of residents to “human trafficking, intercourse trafficking, and different types of victimization,” in its emergency declaration final 12 months.

Berrios, who stated he’s been dwelling on the road for 2 years, stated he welcomed the possibility to have a extra everlasting place to dwell.

“It’s a terrific factor that that is taking place right this moment, you realize, as a result of all people’s now transferring into shelters or getting an condominium,” Berrios stated.

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Associated Press author Mark Pratt contributed to this report.

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