Relief is about to come on wheels, or so City officials announced this week when they told members of the Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA) they would be introducing mobile bathroom units to areas where public defecation and human feces are routinely the focus of complaints.
Kim Thai, a special advisor to Mayor Martin Walsh who is in charge of the Mass/Cass 2.0 plan, said they will within the next several days be dispatching mobile toilets to the area with staffing. That is complemented also with a team of workers they are putting together now that will be responsible for potentially removing human feces from private property – a major problem that has escalated during COVID-19 due to fewer public bathrooms for the vulnerable population on the corridor.
“One thing we’re trying to move forward with very quickly is the implementation of mobile bathrooms,” said Thai at the Zoom meeting Tuesday night. “We’re looking at trailers or some sort of mobile bathroom with staffing to go to certain locations, particularly in Mass/Cass where there are frequent complaints for public defecation. They will be staffed mobile bathrooms that will come into an area and then leave afterward. This will hopefully lessen the concern about qeueing, gathering or congregating in these spaces when the bathroom is not available.”
Thai said they aren’t ready just yet, but are trying to figure out how to assemble a team that would be able to respond to, and clean up, human feces on resident properties.
“We are looking at a dedicated team to picking up feces,” she said. “If there is feces on public property, Public Works does pick it up…The Task Force is trying to figure out a plan to do that. I won’t say there is a delay, but there are a lot of considerations. We are in a pandemic. Our resources are stretched now. It would require full-time employees and equipment.”
That comes in response to the major uptick in public defecation and toileting on private property that has emerged with the pandemic, but it also is in response to the vast amounts of people who have set up shop in front of the former Comfort Station that was on the parking lot at Woods Mullen Shelter (corner of Mass/Cass).
Thai said the Comfort Station there – a focus of major attention as the homeless and vulnerable have taken to congregating there in huge numbers and opening using drugs as people drive and walk by – has been closed down for construction.
The shelter has been slated to be renovated for about one year, and that project is now underway. On Sept. 11, the Comfort Station – which opened in April to help with COVID-19 – closed down and it will be closed due to the construction for about a year. Thai said they have enlarged the second Comfort Station on Atkinson Street in Newmarket and are directing those at Woods Mullen to use that Station. However, many still choose to stay on the sidewalk there, and this week there were even tents pitched on the sidewalk outside the former Comfort Station.
That said, the two ideas have come out of the Task Force’s working group format introduced last month. The three working groups made up of Task Force members include:
•Advocacy – tackling issues like Long Island Bridge, Shattuck Hospital, and extending the Methadone waiver for in-person services.
•Quality of Life – tackling issues like public defecation and encampments.
She said those groups meet more often than the once-a-month Task Force meetings and are able to move new initiatives along at a faster pace.
One of the biggest questions that has routinely come from the WSANA area is about decentralization of services – taking some of the many services located in the area and spreading them out to other neighborhoods and to other cities and towns. Thai didn’t have a concrete answer for progress on that issue, but Recovery Services Director Jen Tracy is to be at the October meeting to talk in depth about that.
Thai said many don’t think there has been outreach to those on Mass/Cass, but she said many don’t see the work that has gone on. Frequently, they only see people gathered and what is going on outside the former Comfort Station.
“There is constant engagement with the population in that area we’re talking about,” she said. “Unfortunately, you can’t force people into recovery…You may not see people out there, but they are there. We do realize people are suffering and we have people out there trying to help them and we have law enforcement there targeting the predators and drug dealers while we try to engage with people there every day to try to get them treatment.”
OTHER WSANA ITEMS
•On a much lighter note, Craig Hughes reported they will be having a fall concert in Worcester Square that will be socially distanced on Oct. 4.
The concert will include social distancing and COVID-19 protocols. In order to get the entire neighborhood accommodated, Hughes is asking that neighbors in Worcester Square listen from their stoops or windows. That will allow those from other streets to be able to come over and be socially distant in the park.
They can fit about 45 in the park according to guidelines.
Mark your calendars.
•Many are wondering what to do with Halloween on Oct. 31, and WSANA has given John Stellwagen the green light so he can carry out a socially distanced Halloween at his home on Worcester Square.
Using gloves and masks, and coming up with a unique system to pass out candy, he plans to set up at his home and pass out treats – keeping with tradition.
•Vice President Desi Murphy reported there has been a great deal of progress in getting new crosswalks in the neighborhood. Last spring, WSANA identified a number of crosswalks that needed attention, and this summer they were approved to replace 20 of them, he said. Meanwhile, lighting on Harrison Avenue has improved due to the fact that two new streetlights were approved and installed as well.
•On the topic of tradition, President George Stergios polled the group to find out if it would be appropriate to begin planning for the annual tree lighting – one of the oldest ongoing traditions in the City. Most WSANA members felt that a scaled-down tree lighting would be appropriate, especially if people were instructed to walk around the Square one-way and not to congregate in one place too long.
In sad news from the North Pole, there are preliminary reports Stergios said that kids likely won’t be able to sit on Santa’s lap this year to tell him what they want for Christmas. There is talk Santa might accept letters in person this year, but time will tell.