Mayor Michelle Wu held a press conference on January 10 to provide updates on the public health crisis at Mass and Cass.
“Our efforts here at Mass and Cass have been driven by a public health and housing-led approach,” Wu said, adding that the encampments “are not a safe or healthy place for anyone to be living.”
There is no heat or running water and fires have broken out in the area as people attempt to stay warm.
With this week’s frigid weather especially, there are “ongoing issues around frostbite and hypothermia as temperatures drop,” Wu said.
The Wu administration has surveyed folks living in the Mass/Cass area and between December 6 and December 8, identified 145 people who resided in the area. She said that the city is trying to “meet each person where they are” when it comes to what their needs are regarding housing and medical care.
“Almost all individuals who were surveyed then stated that they’d like to move into low threshold housing,” Wu said, “ but that many of the existing shelter options were not meeting their needs.”
Wu said that following the December survey, resources were provided to those surveyed on December 16 and they were also told that tents would be removed after January 12.
She said that as of Jan. 10, 83 people were living in low threshold housing, and space is available for the 62 remaining people.
Wu said that on Jan. 12, the city will take down tents that had been left as well as “begin clearing the street.”
She said that the public works department will be “investing in street repairs and regular cleanings,” and the Boston Police Department will “ensure a safe environment for residents, businesses, and individuals accessing care.”
Wu also said that it will take “more than one day” to get rid of the encampments.
She also said that the city continues to work on longer term efforts, as Wu and city officials visited Long Island last week to assess the condition of the buildings. She said that more “regional investment” as well as collaboration with the state and other cities and towns will be needed.
Chief of Housing Sheila Dillon said that housing for 200 people “has been identified,” and as of the press conference, 159 spaces were up and running and all feature 24 hour staff.
“We’re taking a comprehensive public health approach to this issue,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “The need for these services will continue and will be great even when the tents in this area are gone.”
She said the approach includes “increasing access to low threshold housing,” as well as “intentionally focusing on health equity.”
Wu acknowledged that there are more than 62 people remaining at Mass and Cass, as there are “people constantly coming and going,” but “our approach is to really understand who is truly living in the encampments and living in this area” and help provide them with services and housing, “then connect with any other folks who might be in the area.”
The administration said that folks are living at the Envision Hotel on S. Huntington Ave., as well as at 112 Southampton St. and Woods-Mullin shelters. The Roundhouse Hotel is also housing folks, as are the new cottages at the Shattuck Campus in Franklin Park, though not all are ready for occupants yet because of delays in getting electricity to the units.
Dillon said that each cottage is heated individually, and that more will be “coming on next week.”