Experts in public health, housing, and addiction rebuke Boston officials over actions at Mass. and Cass.
October 26, 2021
By Dialynn Dwyer
Leaders and advocates working in public health, housing, and addiction are denouncing the steps Boston officials are taking to handle the humanitarian crisis in the area of the city known as Mass. and Cass.
This week, city officials began what they described as a “general cleanup” of the area, posting notices on some streets that all belongings needed to be removed. Unhoused individuals living in the encampments were approached by city employees offering free storage for their belongings and placement in shelters.
The move follows after Acting Mayor Kim Janey announced last week that “tents and temporary shelters will no longer be permitted” in Boston, issuing an executive order outlining the city’s approach to removing the encampments that have emerged as the epicenter of the opioid epidemic and homelessness crisis in the state. The city is mandating “intensive and persistent” outreach and engagement to people living in encampments, offering housing and treatment services as part of the effort. Officials have stressed that an individual’s tent will not be removed without notice and that they must first have been offered a bed in a shelter or treatment program.
But experts and advocates are raising concerns about the legal grounds of the sheriff’s plan and what will determine whether an individual is sent to jail or the new facility.
“Whether you call it Section 35 or you call it something else, it sounds a lot like involuntary treatment,” Lizz Matos, executive director of Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, told WBUR.
Matos was among a handful of advocates and experts who wrote a letter to local and state leaders raising concerns about Tompkins’s proposal earlier this month.