Boston Mayor Michelle Wu gave an update on the Mass. and Cass situation on Tuesday, speaking to reporters after stepping off a boat that had taken her and other city officials to visit Long Island.
The island once housed City of Boston housing and addiction recovery facilities, but former Mayor Marty Walsh closed the bridge in 2014, citing public safety. The city has since aimed to reopen the facilities, and the place, while dilapidated, is "full of potential" as the city seeks to increase what it can do for people struggling with addiction.
"As we are working very quickly on the urgent crisis at Mass. and Cass with actions that will continue to ramp up through next week and beyond, we're already evaluating medium- and long-term options. Long Island is one big piece of that," Wu said.
She was joined by Senior Advisor Dr. Monica Bharel, Boston Public Health Commission Executive Director Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Chief of Housing Sheila Dillon and other administration officials.
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The city announced a deadline of Jan. 12 last month for people living in tents at the Boston homeless encampment known as Mass. and Cass to be cleared from the area permanently.
Boston city officials have been working to connect area residents with social services and new housing, calling the encampment near the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard a health risk and dangerous for residents and neighbors.
Asked about the Jan. 12 deadline, Wu said the city is still working on the timeline, but added, "It's not going to be an on and off switch where one day everyone will still be living in encampments and the next day, everyone will have disappeared."
The January deadline will finish work begun in October, in which people in tents or shelters are given notice at least two days before their property must be removed as well as offers of drug treatment, shelter, transportation and property storage. City workers will stay in the area after Jan. 12 to ensure the encampments don't return, officials said.
Wu didn't offer much of an update on the city's work to clear Mass. and Cass responsibly.
The city listed several areas where housing is or will soon be available, including on the Shattuck Hospital campus in Jamaica Plain, the EnVision Hotel in Longwood Medical Area and the Roundhouse Hotel in the Mass. and Cass area.
Wu has announced a goal of opening at least 200 low-threshold beds at city-run shelters, and last month's announcement said the city is pushing to lower barriers to get into beds.
The city's efforts to clear the camp have been met with skepticism and resistance, including a lawsuit from the ACLU of Massachusetts that aimed to protect "the legal rights and safety" of unhoused people being evicted. But last year, a state judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order.
If Long Island were to reopen -- and the city of Quincy has pushed back on rebuilding the bridge there after it was destroyed in 2015 -- Wu said all methods of transportation are available, including ferries. Facilities will need repair.
"It was very helpful to see the space, to see the potential it could have and to start thinking about it as we look for more therapeutic places, places for people to be in recovery," said Dr. Monica Bharel, a senior advisor to Wu.