Boston Mayor Michelle Wu appears to be quickly drafting plans to create housing for those living in tents near the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard.
Community leaders say they've been meeting with the mayor about housing for the estimated 180 people now living in the encampment. They say Wu hopes to have all the tents off the streets by the middle of this month.
"We are working urgently to provide low-threshold housing for those currently experiencing homelessness and living in tents and encampments, with a focus on alleviating the crisis in the Mass. Ave. and Melnea Cass Boulevard area," said a statement from Wu's office. "The Mayor has charged her team, including Dr. Monica Bharel, Dr. Bisola Ojikutu and Chief [of housing] Sheila Dillon, to identify new low-threshold housing sites across the city with comprehensive wrap-around services, and to identify partnerships statewide that offer safe, healthy housing options. Our team has also begun engaging in community conversations to present options, hear feedback and move forward in partnership.”
The plan, according to some of the community leaders at the meeting, is to have as many as 200 transitional housing beds in various neighborhoods.
Wu's office did not confirm reports from community leaders, who said the mayor's office has told them up to 60 of those beds could be in the nearby vacant Roundhouse hotel. A similar plan to use the hotel for transitional housing was shelved after former acting Mayor Kim Janey proposed it earlier this year. Some area business leaders remain opposed to the idea.
Sue Sullivan, executive director of the Newmarket Business Association, said moving people from tents into hotel beds in the same area will not address some of the problems in the encampment, such as drug dealing and crime.
"How is anyone going to get better when their drug dealers are still right outside their door?" Sullivan asked. "I applaud the mayor for wanting to get everyone into housing but it should be spread out to other neighborhoods. We're willing to do our part but at some point we have to say this is too much."
The city started removing tents in October. Since then, the Wu administration says, more than 250 people have been placed in addiction treatment and 40 people went into housing. The city estimates there are about 90 tents remaining in the neighborhood.