BOSTON — The city of Boston has announced a new plan to dismantle an encampment where violence has escalated, but it has not been well received by its Southend neighbors.
City officials said they were working to codify a city law and an ordinance that would allow police to remove tents, tarps and temporary structures on Atkinson Street.
Details were revealed at a virtual community meeting Tuesday afternoon with the goal of cleaning up Atkinson Street by November.
Boston Public Health Commission Executive Director Dr. Bisora Ojiktu said the city is considering opening a new “safe sleep area” and medical services hub at 725-727 Massachusetts Avenue near Albany Street. .
She said the space would be for chronically homeless people who were reluctant to stay in mass shelters.
“All we are trying to do is find a safe place where a small number of people can be present and temporarily sleep while we bring order to the streets,” Dr Ojiktu said.
Hundreds were seen gathering near the camp at times this summer.
But Dr. Oziktu estimates that only about 30 people routinely stay there overnight.
He said drugs are prohibited on 725-727 Massachusetts Avenue and security will be in place 24 hours a day.
“People are not allowed to stand and walk outside. We will also install more lights, more cameras, and metal detectors to enter the building,” she explained.
That explanation didn’t sit well with Southend residents and community leaders who had long called for the service to be expanded elsewhere.
“If you get close to another shelter in the Southend, we will start a campaign to close it,” said neighbor Bob Minotti.
Newly elected state legislator John Moran, who lives in Southend, said he would do whatever it takes to stop the plan from moving forward.
“This is ridiculous,” said the Democrat representing the 9th Suffolk constituency. “No more. I’m not going to build a fourth refuge in the Southend!”
The Mass Ave address is less than a mile from Atkinson Street, but close to residential neighborhoods that share quality of life concerns.
“Unlike Atkinson Street, where you can barricade it on both ends and contain it, there’s no way to control the situation there,” said neighbor David Stone. “This is going to be a disaster for the South End area.”
City officials said the changes to the city law, if passed by the city council, would allow more security measures to be implemented in the area.
Boston Police Department calls in the Mass and Cass area are up 10 percent compared to this time last year.
The region has seen a surge in violent assaults in recent months, as has violence against outreach workers.
Dr Oziktu said the city is committed to rebuilding the bridge to Long Island and resuming phase one service within four years.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates as more information becomes available.
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