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City of Boston Provides Updates on Crises Centered at Mass. Ave. and Melnea Cass Blvd

Mayor Michelle Wu today provided updates on the City of Boston’s response to address the intersection of unsheltered homelessness and substance use crises, centered in the area surrounding Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard.

Mayor Wu provided these updates in Roxbury alongside Coordinated Response Team Director Tania Del Rio; Superintendent of Street Operations Mike Brohel, Department of Public Works; Chief Sheila Dillon, Mayor’s Office of Housing; Commissioner Michael Cox, Boston Police Department (BPD); Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC); and Commissioner Ryan Woods, Parks and Recreation Department. She was also joined by Sue Sullivan, Executive Director of the Newmarket Business Improvement District. Mayor Wu called for state assistance in creating 1,000 units of low-threshold housing throughout Massachusetts. 

“As a City, we have responsibility to care for individuals living with substance use disorders and mental health challenges. At the same time, we have a responsibility to address the impacts that these challenges have on our communities,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “We must mitigate the public health risks to families, young people, and residents of all ages who deserve parks, playgrounds, streets, and sidewalks that are safe and clean in all of Boston’s communities.” 

The City’s efforts to address the crises of substance use disorder, unsheltered homelessness, and mental health include:

  • 397 people connected to low-threshold housing since January 12, 2022
  • 65 people connected to secure, permanent housing since January 12, 2022
  • 1,816 people connected to treatment since January 12, 2022
  • 185 individuals currently housed at six low-threshold housing sites
  • 202,079 needles collected through the AHOPE program during the month of September (2.74 times more needs than those given out through the program)
  • 2,220 completed requests via 311 for needle pickup since Jan 12, 2022 within three quarters of a mile of the intersection of Mass and Cass
  • 19 weekly street cleanings in the area of Mass and Cass

The efforts also include work to ensure public safety at the engagement center, joint collaboration with BPD and BPHC outreach workers to connect individuals with services, regular parking enforcement, new day centers in Roxbury and the Back Bay, daily transportation and referrals to services outside the neighborhood, and continued operation of services at low threshold housing sites. 

The Coordinated Response Team - made up of over 10 departments that respond to the needs of unsheltered individuals and their surrounding communities - continues this work to support unsheltered residents. Information about the City’s ongoing response to the crises is regularly updated on the Mass/Cass Dashboard.

During the press conference, Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Ryan Woods expressed enthusiasm to engage with the Roxbury community on a complete renovation and redesign of Clifford Playground. Commissioner Woods also highlighted Parks staff that start their day by cleaning Clifford Playground and thanked the Newmarket Business Improvement District for contributing to the five daily cleanings of the park that take place. 

Mayor Wu previously announced a long-term strategic direction that the City of Boston is advancing to improve systems of care for unsheltered individuals impacted by substance use disorder. This strategic outlook outlines initiatives to decentralize services and strengthen the continuum of care, in part through shelter redesign. Through these initiatives, Mayor Wu seeks to reimagine how the City and regional partners assist individuals, services, and community, leading with a public health approach and supported by public safety.

More details on the City’s response can be found here.

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