New ‘Working Group’ Highlighted by Entry of Four Street Workers at Methadone Mile

The unveiling of a new multi-organizational working group to begin dealing with the addiction and homelessness problem in the Methadone Mile district of Albany and Mass Ave was highlighted in a presentation at Tuesday’s South End Forum by the announcement of four new street workers dedicated to the area.

City Councilors Annissa Essaibi George and Frank Baker, along with Jen Tracey, the point person from Mayor Martin Walsh’s Office of Recovery, told residents attending the packed forum on Tuesday that four new street workers paid for in the new fiscal budget hit the streets last week and are doing foundational work.

“There are a tremendous amount of resources spent now that are going towards that area,” said Tracey. “This is week two of them being out there. Some of the things we’ve observed they’ve codified with data and metrics. We now know more about people there on the street who they are and why they are there. It’s multi-faceted. It’s not just people from the shelter and not just people seeking treatment at the hospital or Methadone Clinics. The idea is to move them to services…They’ve been moving people already into different place.

“We’re all at the table trying to figure out a solution to a very long-standing problem that’s got worse and needs long-term solutions,” she continued.

The four street workers are out in the area from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week. Additional street workers from other City programs will also be used to fill in some gaps on the weekends and night hours.

Both councilors said they are excited to work on the group, saying it will be focused and not just be a complaint session.

“One thing I found out is that the words ‘Task Force’ scare people away,” said Baker. “We decided to call this a working group. We hope to bring together South End residents, and the business community and organizations. Crosstown meets and so does Newmarket… Our goal here is going to be to set actual goals.”

Essaibi George said the group would focus on goals that they believe they can attain.

“This is a working group that has goals that we will work on getting accomplished,” she said. “I don’t think any one of us needs another meeting to attend. This is already an incredible amount of desire and energy to solve these problems…We’re going to focus on pragmatic solutions and not be a soapbox for people to complain.”

The first meeting of the working group is likely to be held in the next few weeks, and Forum Moderator Steve Fox said there could be a small steering group convened to set the table for the first meeting of what is expected to be a long-term process.

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