BOSTON (WHDH) - The Boston City Council on Wednesday voted to approve an ordinance that will ban tents and other temporary shelters in the troubled area known as Mass and Cass.
Mayor Michelle Wu proposed the ordinance back in August. As part of her announcement, Wu layed out a plan to give police the power to remove tents and tarps on public property and roads in cases where people living inside are offered alternative places to live, services, transportation and space to store their belongings.
Months later, the City Council this week voted 9-3 in favor of approving the ordinance.
City Council President Ed Flynn spoke during a city council meeting Wednesday, detailing his reason for voting “yes.”
“The number one reason is these tents need to come down,” Flynn said. “They’ve been up long enough. We should never have this situation in the city of Boston again.”
Wu is scheduled to speak on Thursday morning about intersecting crises of substance use disorder, mental health issues and homelessness near the intersection of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue.
A city spokesperson, in the meantime, said officials “are grateful to the Council for their partnership in approving this ordinance to help address the public safety of patients, workers, and residents in the area so our teams can continue outreach to individuals in need.”
“City staff and provider partners have been working for weeks to prepare for our plans to reopen Atkinson Street to standard roadway operations and expand citywide outreach for shelter, services, and treatment,” the spokesperson continued, referencing Atkinson Street, which is roughly one block from the intersection of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue itself.
While the city council passed the ordinance, it opted to strip away part of the plan that would have levied fines.
“That came up a number of times from different folks,” said City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo on Wednesday. “Now, there’s a verbal warning in place.”
Arroyo continued, saying there had been concern that fines “would follow folks around,” with people not paying fines related to the ordinance.
The ordinance will now go to Wu’s desk. The ordinance will then take effect one week after it is signed.
Back in January, 2022, the city of Boston brought in bulldozers and dump trucks to remove tents from the homeless encampment at Mass and Cass. Not long after that action, though, the tents were back.
Wu in August said “so called ‘law enforcement sweeps’ in the past have not been successful.”
“That’s not what we’re trying to replicate,” she said, referencing her new plan.
Among changes, Arroyo said the new ordinance will require that individuals be told they have the right to be transported to shelter.
Developments earlier this year came after many healthcare workers were pulled out of Mass and Cass due to safety concerns. Developments also came as officials eyed the winter months, which will raise the stakes to get people out of tents.
City Councilors proceeded to debate Wu’s ordinance in the weeks after the mayor’s August announcement, discussing the effectiveness of the plan, among other things.
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