BOSTON (WHDH) - After the clearing of homeless encampments at Mass and Cass, officials at Boston Medical Center say they’re seeing a rise in people seeking shelter in their emergency department.
Blocks away from the BMC facility, gates were in place Thursday along Atkinson Street, where just weeks ago many people were living in tents and tarp structures. Barricades now block off nearby sidewalks, as well.
Now that the tents and tarps are down, fewer people are hanging out or sleeping near Mass and Cass. At BMC, though, hospital officials this week said people are loitering on sidewalks and in garages in addition to using the hospital emergency room for shelter.
“What I’m hearing is that it’s not any different than the situation has been in the past,” said Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. “There has not been a spike or a change in that situation.”
A hospital spokesperson, however, said BMC is in fact seeing an uptick.
“These are the ones that didn’t want to go into shelter, that said ‘No, I’m not going to go one way or the other, I’d rather be out.’” said Sue Sullivan of the Newmarket Business Association. “Those are the people we’re seeing in garages and around loading docks.”
In a statement, Boston Medical Center explained “BMC is focused on medical care and does not have the capacity or resources to provide shelter to individuals or families.”
As a result, the hospital has stepped up security on its grounds and added a call box to help keep people safe. The hospital is also working with Boston police to manage any issues.
New developments in the area of Mass and Cass come after a new city ordinance governing tents and tarp structures took effect earlier this month.
Proposed by Wu and passed by the Boston City Council, the ordinance allows police to take down tents and other structures in cases where people living inside are offered alternative places to live, services, transportation and space to store their belongings.
It was always a concern when clearing encampments that people would simply leave Mass and Cass and move somewhere else. After cleanup efforts in recent weeks, Wu said officials noticed people gathering at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square and at the Massachusetts Avenue MBTA station.
“You can’t ever declare victory after just a short period of time,” she said. “And this is going to be an ongoing challenge as we continue to try to create more affordable housing and work with all the providers so that people have access to the medical care and support that they need.”
BMC officials said they usually see an influx of people seeking shelter in the winter months. Nevertheless, officials said they’re still seeing a surge at this time, adding that the influx is arriving sooner than usual.
Speaking with reporters, Wu said city officials previously sent resources to the public library and the Mass. Ave. T station after noticing people gathered in those areas.
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