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Controversial Boston 'Comfort Station' For People Experiencing Substance Use, Homelessness Shut Down05:46
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Boston's "comfort station" on Atkinson Street for those struggling with substance use or homelessness during the pandemic. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Boston's "comfort station" on Atkinson Street for those struggling with substance use or homelessness during the pandemic. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

The city of Boston has shut down what it called a "comfort station," which had been opened by city health officials during the pandemic to aid people experiencing substance use disorder and homelessness. The station was shuttered a month ago but city officials didn't announce the closure until this week.

It was a fenced-in area of tents, overseen by the Boston Public Health Commission, where people could use portable toilets or wash up. They could also get connected to recovery services and other medical care.

The comfort station was near the area of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, commonly referred to as "Mass/Cass." The area has long been the hub of the city's opioid crisis, and some residents and community leaders said the comfort station made things worse — with hundreds of people congregating, some openly injecting drugs and under the influence, needles and waste littering the ground, and crime increasing.

The city's health and human services chief, Marty Martinez, told WBUR's Jack Lepiarz on All Things Considered that the services made available in the tents will continue to be offered at a nearby drop-in center that's been housed in a temporary structure for four years but will soon open in a permanent building. And Martinez acknowledged that the problems surrounding the open-air comfort station became untenable.

This segment aired on September 1, 2021.

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Lynn Jolicoeur Twitter Producer/Reporter
Lynn Jolicoeur is the field producer for WBUR's All Things Considered. She also reports for the station's various local news broadcasts.

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Jack Lepiarz is a reporter and anchor at WBUR.

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