TENT TEAR DOWN SET UP
Questions arise over new encampments
Mass and Cass plans continue to move forward, with Acting Mayor Kim Janey’s recent moves being generally well-received — albeit with some questions over whether the homeless will just move onto other neighborhoods — and preparations continuing at the Suffolk County jail for a mobile courtroom and treatment space.
The city-run Mass and Cass Task Force met Thursday afternoon — behind closed doors, as usual — in a session that largely consisted of a rundown of Janey’s announcement that all tents must go from earlier in the week, with the possibility for the assembled members to ask questions, per people on the call.
Multiple people on the task force voiced concerns about how to keep the crackdown on tent encampments from simply shuffling the problem from one place to another.
“It’s going to be really important for us to make sure that the encampments suddenly don’t begin popping up in other locations,” Steve Fox of the South End Forum neighborhood group said afterward.
City Councilor Ed Flynn, who’s on the task force, said, “It is critical we do not push this crisis from the Mass and Cass area, to another neighborhood in Boston.”
Sue Sullivan of the Newmarket Business Association, who also was on the call, said she’s optimistic about the new plans, but the plans will require the authorities to be “very vigilant” to disrupt any new tent clusters as soon as there’s any sign of them.
“It’s very, very difficult once they’ve set up and are entrenched,” she said.
Janey rolled out a fivepoint plan on Tuesday in an attempt to tackle the crisis in the South End, where a dirty and violent open-air drug market has taken hold and worsened. Among her moves is to begin to get people out of tents and into treatment and to go after people committing major crimes there.
Sullivan said she thinks it’s already having a positive effect. Her organization pays homeless to do cleanup work, and three men who regularly do the work for her told her Thursday that these changes will prompt them to leave.
“They said to me, ‘I gotta get out of here — I’ve got to go into treatment,'” she said. “‘I’ve got to get to a better place.'”
Janey and company presented the plan on Wednesday in what have become the weekly occurrences of highpowered meetings of decision-makers — a room with her, Gov. Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins, Suffolk Sheriff Steve Tompkins and representatives from the courts and public defenders offices.
Tompkins said he’s “guardedly optimistic” about all this because it seems “that the city and the state will wrap their arms around this” and make it work.
Tompkins has been advancing his own plan to house some people at a now-vacant building on his South Bay jail campus right near Mass and Cass, and he said that continues, though there hasn’t been a firm decision to send people there. He also said he’s working on setting up a “mobile courtroom” so people with warrants can get them disposed of there, and either go to jail, go to this new mandated treatment area or home, as the court decides.