The Boston Bengals Pop Warner program is seriously considering shutting down after a series of incidents involving violent homeless people and dangerously close encounters with discarded hypodermic needles and other drug paraphernalia at the Boston park where the football teams practice.
Used drug needles, crack pipes and human feces are just a few of the things routinely scattered throughout Clifford Park on Shirley Street in Roxbury, about a half-mile from so-called Methadone Mile, a notorious stretch along Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard where people regularly use illegal drugs in broad daylight.
"We're not able to keep their kids 100% safe," said Domingos DaRosa, the program's president. "We had one incident where a young person was almost pricked."
The youth football program, which includes children from ages 5 to 14, suffered a dramatic drop in enrollment this season, plummeting from about 300 to about 30.
DaRosa said parents don't want their children in that kind of environment.
"One individual ran across the field, grabbed a knife and and came back," DaRosa recalled. "And there was a parent stuck between the two, and that was the end of that. That was the last time they came back."
More on Methadone Mile
The sinking enrollment gutted the program's revenue stream, which prompted discussions about either shutting down or sending the children to other programs in the region.
DaRosa said he routinely reaches out to Mayor Kim Janey's office, but never gets anywhere.
"As a district councilor, she did absolutely nothing," he said. "As an acting mayor, she has done absolutely nothing. As a constituent, she will never receive my vote."
"We are taking actions to improve both public health and public safety in the neighborhood hardest hit by the opioid crisis," Janey's office said in a statement Friday.
The statement explained that the mayor's office is cracking down on illegal activity and providing access to substance abuse treatment programs.
The program will make a decision Friday night on whether to shut down.