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Mayor Wu says there is no timeline for Mass. and Cass tent removal

People line Atkinson Street at Mass. Ave. last month.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu on Monday said there is no set start date for city officials to once again begin clearing tents from the geographic heart of the city’s opioid and homelessness crises, an area known as Mass. and Cass.

“We don’t have a specific timeline,” said Wu during a City Hall news conference. “We are working as quickly as possible.”

Her comments came days after news broke that Wu has drafted plans to move people living in the tent encampments around the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard to transitional housing sites across the city, with a goal of clearing the area by mid to late December, according to community advocates briefed on the outline.

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Wu had previously paused the city’s removal of tents. On Monday, Wu reiterated that 200 beds at locations that would provide treatment services would be enough to house the remaining homeless on Mass. and Cass.

“We are identifying sites citywide,” she said. Wu added that she had an internal meeting regarding Mass. and Cass Monday afternoon.

Among the sites reportedly under consideration is the Roundhouse hotel, which is located near the Mass. and Cass intersection. Local community stakeholders have pushed back against that idea, saying it flies in the face of the stated goal of decentralizing addiction and homelessness services that are offered in the area. Critics of the Roundhouse plan also argue that using the defunct hotel would mean residents staying there would continue to live near their supply of drugs.

According to community leaders, the hotel, under the proposal, would be used for low-threshold housing, which is considered the first stage of transitional housing, offering homeless individuals suffering from mental illness and those actively using illegal substances immediate, personal case management and support as they work toward long-term stability.

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Under Wu’s plan, according to several people who were briefed, Boston Medical Center would oversee at least some of the services at Roundhouse.

The humanitarian crisis at Mass. and Cass is among the most immediate and complex challenges for Wu, who was sworn-in as the city’s executive last month.

A mini-tent city was erected in recent months in the area, which is an open-air narcotics market. During the summer overdoses, street violence, and theft became daily realities.

The approaching winter has added an urgency to the problem of people living in ramshackle shelters and tents on the streets. As of late last week, with the temperatures dropping, there were still dozens of tents standing on Southampton Street and in a nearby industrial park in Newmarket Square.

Neighborhood leaders fought a similar proposal for the vacant Roundhouse, a former Best Western hotel, when then-acting mayor Kim Janey proposed it last summer.

Janey’s effort to clear out the tents in November, citing the violence and public health concerns, was criticized by medical specialists. They argued it failed to address the root cause of the drug crisis, and would only exacerbate the problem and put those seeking care in danger.

Last month, state officials announced a plan to create 30 such beds in a “temporary cottage community” at the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital grounds in Jamaica Plan to be open by mid-December.

Milton J. Valencia of Globe staff contributed to this report.







Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.