Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said homelessness in Boston is a "pressing and complex issue," but the city has the resources to do something about it.
These comments come as the Boston City Council continues to debate Wu's proposal to remove tent encampments in the area of the city known as "Mass. and Cass," which has seen rising homelessness and drug use.
"I just want to push back on the sense that this is hopeless, or too big a problem," or that it's been going on for many years, Wu said. She acknowledged the mounting housing costs and substance abuse challenges the city's unhoused population is facing and said Boston has capacity to support those individuals.
"We are a city with resources, and we need to marshal the public and political will to ensure that we are continuing to try to address the challenge," Wu said. The City Council is supposed to vote on the mayor's proposed ordinance next week.
Earlier this week, Gov. Maura Healey announced that Massachusetts will end its guarantee to shelter, once the number of families in need hits 7,500. The system has been overwhelmed by record numbers of people seeking shelter, including a large wave of immigrants.
The mayor on Wednesday said the city will continue to support arriving migrants, with spaces to stay and work authorizations. She said incorporating migrants into the local workforce will help alleviate the current strain on the state's family-shelter system.
"The more we can expedite everyone getting on their feet, the more efficiently the system itself will run and can actually function as a temporary safety net rather than a more permanent use it's taken on because the bureaucracy has clogged up everything," she said.
During her appearance on Radio Boston, Wu also spoke about the conflict unfolding in Israel and Gaza. She expressed hope that Boston will remain a welcoming space "for people to share how they're feeling and doing and to share some understanding with their neighbors."
Wu added that the city is on watch for any possible hate crimes fueled by the conflict.
"We are working very closely with Boston police and all of our community partners," she said. "We're in constant contact with synagogues, mosques [and] groups that are representing community members of all backgrounds, just so we can have the information and then be prepared to support however makes the most sense."
Wu also spoke briefly about her initiative to introduce green spaces to Boston Public Schools. More than 80 schools already have outdoor learning opportunities. The city is launching 10 new raised-bed garden programs around Boston.
Wu said she hopes close encounters with nature will inspire local youth to be more environmentally conscious.
"We can not only inspire our kids to integrate their science and math curriculums and biology with the outdoor gardens that they can actually learn in," she said. "But [also] inspire a larger love and understanding of issues that will be the driving issues for their safety, future and economic prospects as well."
This segment aired on October 18, 2023.