The Mayor of Revere criticizes Boston officials over Mass’s plans. & Cass
Frustrated by what he saw as a lack of communication from Boston health officials, Arrigo, in a letter to the executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission on Monday, said he had lost all faith in that organization. “to thoughtfully execute a matter of such public importance.
âSadly, the BPHC has yet to demonstrate its ability to cope with the present moment and has instead endangered the progress that we all hope to see for our community,â he said.
The district of Mass. and Cass, located near the intersection of the South End, Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods, is an open-air narcotics market, where overdoses and reports of street violence and sexual exploitation linked to illicit drug trafficking are common. Many residents say it got worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, with dozens of sidewalk tents popping up in recent months.
On Tuesday, Emma Pettit, spokesperson for acting mayor of Boston, Kim Janey, said Janey “is committed to a regional approach to address the regional challenges of the opioid crisis.”
âThe city of Boston must not shoulder this burden alone,â said Pettit. âMayor Janey invites Mayor Arrigo and other mayors to join her in meeting the needs of people with mental health issues and substance use disorders in Boston, Revere and across our Commonwealth. “
One of those opportunities, the statement said, “is a pilot effort at Revere that will provide transitional housing and full services, helping some of our most vulnerable neighbors find stability, treatment and recovery.”
Boston officials plan to rent 30 rooms at the Quality Inn on Morris Street, according to Janey’s office. How many people would be transferred from Mass. and Cass at the hotel was not immediately clear; the program schedule and other details, such as the room setup, are still being worked out, according to Janey’s office. Meanwhile, Arrigo, in his letter, said he was surprised recently to learn that the hotel “will imminently start operating as a homeless transition center with over 150 beds”. He added that he had heard various figures in recent weeks regarding the number of beds that would be used at the hotel, ranging from 30 to 160.
âAt this point I do [not] I even know how many beds BPHC plans to use at the Quality Inn, âhe said in a letter to Dr. Bisola Ojikutu.
Daily vignettes of human misery in and around the intersection have become a campaign issue for mayor, with several candidates in recent months speaking out about the need for a regional approach to tackle issues there. âDecentralizing servicesâ has become a dominant theme among city politicians when they talk about what needs to happen in Mass. and Cass.
There are persistent complaints that many of those struggling in the area, which is home to several homeless shelters and outpatient drug addiction centers as well as two methadone clinics, are not from Boston. It is unfair, the argument goes, that Boston should shoulder so much of a burden on a regional opioid problem.
This argument was reiterated Tuesday by Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, one of the two mayoral candidates.
âLook, over 70% of those who have come down to Mass. And Cass are not from Boston,â she said in a statement. âWe need to decentralize services and our neighboring communities need to step up and do their part to deal with this crisis. No municipality in this Commonwealth is immune to the opioid crisis and no municipality should be exempt from doing this work. “
The other candidate, Councilor Michelle Wu, said Tuesday she looked forward to “working with our regional partners and with the responsibility of the City of Boston agencies to coordinate clear and achievable plans for public health and safety. , treatment and supportive housing “.
But Arrigo’s letter this week demonstrates that any regional solution to Mass. and Cass. could face significant obstacles.
In the letter, the mayor of Revere criticizes Boston health officials for what he sees as a lack of communication and collaboration. He said leaders in the town of Revere discovered plans to convert the Quality Inn hotel when a recovery coach left a voicemail message at a municipal office set up to combat unrest related to the substance use.
âSimply put, the level of disorganization at BPHC regarding this effort is appalling,â Arrigo said.
Arrigo said Revere made several attempts to connect with the Boston Public Health Commission and other Boston officials.
âAt this point, it is clear that our hopes for an organized action plan. . . were devastated by the inability of the BPHC to produce emergency and operational documents that should be the norm with such a sensitive initiative, âhe said. âIt is also clear that little to no planning was undertaken before the homeless people moved from Melnea Cass Boulevard. “
Jim Stewart, a founding board member of SIFMA Now !, a group that advocates for safe drinking sites in the state, said it made sense to house vulnerable people in places like hotels. If nothing else, he said, it would help them out of Mass’s daily chaos. and Cass, whom he called a “conveyor belt to nowhere.”
âIf decentralization means giving people the help they need, I totally agree,â he said.
Politicians, he said, must challenge people’s unfounded views that such facilities will ruin neighborhoods.
âOnce it’s up and running people say, ‘Yeah, that makes sense,’ but making it work,â is another matter, he said.
Revere is just the latest of Boston’s neighbors to push back on the city’s plans to deal with the opioid crisis.
The reconstruction of the bridge to Long Island, where former mayor Martin J. Walsh promised a campus rehabilitation, looms large in any conversation about Mass. and Cass. But that proposal is complicated by a protracted legal battle with neighboring Quincy, where officials and residents remain staunchly opposed to building a new span.
The bridge was abruptly closed in 2014 because it was deemed unsafe, resulting in the relocation of drug treatment services that had been offered there for a long time. The bridge has since been demolished.
Even in Boston, finding new locations to serve the vulnerable populations of Mass. and Cass was difficult. Earlier in the pandemic, temporary accommodation was established at the neighboring Best Western Roundhouse hotel when shelters were overcrowded during a coronavirus wave. But the hotel currently does not host any such accommodation program, with one advocate saying in recent months: âTo say there is no community support is the underestimation of the decade.
Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.