Diverse Group on Both Sides of Mass. Ave. Looks to Get Attention to Quality of Life Issues

Thursday Standout Message: Enough Is Enough on Mass/Cass

Yahaira Lopez has watched over the last few months as her mother, who lives on Washington Street in the South End, has just grown mentally exhausted from all of the quality of life issues at her stoop – whether it’s cleaning up feces, dodging drug needles, being scared by street people knocking on her door or any of the other indignities suffered by residents of all walks of life in this, one of the worst summers yet seen for drug use and homelessness on the Mass/Cass corridor.

Lopez said she grew up on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Washington Street and her mother has lived there more than 20 years. Lopez has started visiting her mother nearly every day now, and has realized that conditions outside their long-time home are taking a toll on not just her mother – but other residents (rich and poor), businesses and those working in the area.

Looking at an weeks-long encampment in front of the former Bar Lyon at the corner of Mass Avenue and Washington Street, Yahaira Lopez said she and other neighbors are mobilizing to say ‘Enough is Enough’ as their neighborhood spirals on quality of life due to the drug use and homelessness on Mass/Cass. They plan a standout with signs and plenty of energy on Thursday, Sept. 3, at 6 p.m. on this corner.

“I grew up right here and went to the schools here, and lived in Roxbury most all of my life,” she said on Monday. “I was here in the 1990s and so I know what the South End was like then too. We’ve seen it, sure, but I don’t think it’s been this exposed. To say it’s the impact of COVID-19, I don’t think so. Before COVID-19 was a hindrance, it was getting worse every year.

“My mom is exhausted and she’s worried about retaliation because I’ve been speaking up for her,” she continued. “I do get worried how my mom and others are dealing mentally with this situation. I’ve told her she should move, but she’s been here 20 years. To her, this is her home. It’s where she gets medical care and where her pharmacy is at and where her friends are. I have to figure out how my mom can stay in her community without having to choose between empathy and complacency.”

While many residents for many years have been involved in trying to figure out a better solution with City and non-profit leaders for the drug and homelessness epidemic that has grown over the years, many believe meetings and discussions have been played out. The state hasn’t stepped up, and the City’s plan has deteriorated into a spectacle of human carnage on several South End corners. So, Lopez said she thinks it’s time to unite businesses, workers, residents – both rich and poor – and all of the racial groups represented to stand up and say, ‘No More.’

And stand up is exactly what they plan to do.

Lopez and several community partners, neighborhood associations and business leaders are planning a standout Thursday, Sept. 3, at 6 p.m. in an action called ‘Make the Community Comfortable for All.’ They will hold it on the corner of Mass Avenue and Washington Street.

“Businesses shouldn’t have to put up with this, and children are going to have to go to school through this,” she said. “For residents, this corner specifically identifies two groups of residents and housing and businesses that are impacted equally. Once you go to one side of Mass Avenue that’s the wealthier side, and once you are on the other side, that’s the poor side. However, these are two different groups of people in that way that are impacted. It can’t be boiled down into a socio-economic issue or a race issue. It’s the first time we can say we are all impacted despite race, socio-economics or status.”

The plan is to have a major presence with signs, chants and a clear message that it isn’t okay to have people living on the sidewalks, destroying quality of life for residents, ruining businesses, and being on display, sadly, in front of everyone that passes in and out of Boston.

“We have been charged with ostracizing those who are coming down here, but I think the City of Boston has done a better job of ostracizing them by putting them in the public eye of everyone coming and going into Boston,” she said. “These folks are still someone’s children or someone’s parents. They shouldn’t be put on display like that.”

She said the standout is just the first step for residents to send a message of ‘No’ to City and state leaders for the situation that has unfolded in the neighborhood. Lopez said they hope to use that momentum to keep going and build on the past efforts that have taken place, but maybe in a more insistent and less patient way.

“We’re going to keep at it,” she said. “We’ll see how many people show up and how many like-minded people show up to be part of the conversation. We’ll send a message to Boston to say ‘Enough is Enough.’ I think this is the first time two `hoods have mobilized as a collective to move it forward.”

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