BOSTON (WHDH) - Boston city leaders met Thursday to discuss the crisis at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, the area also known as Mass and Cass that has a number of homeless encampments.
Mayor Michelle Wu submitted a proposed ordinance to give police the authority to remove tents with alternative housing options, but the proposal needs the support of the city leadership.
The meeting began at 10 a.m. Thursday and was going hours later.
“I know it hasn’t worked in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, Sacramento,” City Councilor Richard Arroyo said. “I have a study here that says it doesn’t work anywhere.”
Boston City Councilors asked health and safety officials if clearing the tents near Mass and Cass, where police said crime is also increasing, will solve the drug problem that is plaguing the area.
“Do you have a single example in the entire country where that kind of policy has been successful? Do you have one? Just one?” Arroyo said.
During the hearing, Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox said the action will make a difference.
“When you disperse large groups of people engaging in criminal activity that crime goes down and that environment gets better,” Cox said.
Councilor Frank Baker said the city doesn’t need an ordinance to do what needs to be done.
“We’ve talked about this ordinance for two months, and we’re losing a person a day to overdose,” Baker said. “You can go in and arrest the bad actors right off the bat. The people that we know are dealing in drugs or whatever other illegal activities.”
Others are concerned that this move prioritizes sheltering the homeless over treating people with drug addiction.
“We got to think about two things at once. We need to think about housing and treatment,” said Boston City Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune, “We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We know once people have a stable place to call home they’re more likely to engage in resources.”
Community activists said there’s too much talk and not enough action.
“I have been fighting for years saying we don’t want to move people, we want to get them into recovery and we want to help but you also have neighborhoods, businesses and residents,” said Sue Sullivan of the Newmarket Business Association. “What about them? What about the quality of life there too?”
The council is planning to vote next week.
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