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Mass. and Cass crisis demands acute attention as perils mount

The area near the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard in Boston was observed in June 2022 by an officer from the Boston Police Department's Street Outreach Unit.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Women should not have to endure the violence of sex trafficking

The Aug. 17 editorial, “Address both health and safety at Mass. and Cass,” explicitly named the crisis of sex trafficking in the area around Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue. The policy disconnect between public health and personal safety that the editorial describes has undermined the well-being of everyone at Mass. and Cass, particularly trafficked women. Sex buyers blatantly patronize the area day and night; individuals with power and money exploit women who are in active addiction in exchange for drugs. These women often shoulder more severe addiction and behavioral health concerns and endure regular violence, but virtually no specialized services exist to meet their needs.


Since 2020, our clinical and peer-led program for women at the intersection of substance use and commercial sexual exploitation has collaborated with the Boston Police Department’s Human Trafficking Unit. While law enforcement arrests sex buyers and traffickers, women are connected to services through street outreach and a nighttime drop-in space in the area. Our work demonstrates that health and safety are enhanced by innovative collaboration, however complex and painstaking it is to build. The women of Mass. and Cass deserve nothing less.

Abigail M. Judge

Sandra Andrade

Boston Human Exploitation and Trafficking (HEAT)

Massachusetts General Hospital


‘Every person there is a human being’

The editorial board is on target in calling for a balanced approach of public health and law enforcement in addressing the humanitarian crisis at Mass. and Cass.

What is most important is that we not lose sight of the fact that every person there is a human being with siblings, parents, or children, and humans need interventions that work for them wherever they are in their journey. A one-size-fits-all approach to supporting and treating these individuals will not work in a population with diverse characteristics and needs.

No single strategy is going to resolve this crisis and bring relief to those struggling with homelessness and substance use disorder. Instead, we need an array of solutions that include more low-threshold housing, behavioral health services, harm reduction (because a dead person cannot find a pathway to recovery), and law enforcement to address the drug and sex trafficking happening there with alarming regularity.


People with substance use disorder often need many tries at recovery to find the right path and achieve success. It is up to all of us to ensure that the people living at Mass. and Cass have access to a combination of resources to find their way off the street and toward a better quality of life.

Julie Burns

President and CEO

RIZE Massachusetts


Must we assume Wu’s policy shift for the encampments is political?

Re “Mayor Wu moves from progressive left to the center on Mass. and Cass response” (Opinion, Aug. 22): I was disappointed by columnist Joan Vennochi’s conclusion concerning Mayor Michelle Wu’s latest policy shift regarding the area around Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard. Why does Vennochi assume only political intent?

I am not naive. Mayors, Wu included, are surely political animals. But must we always be so cynical as to ascribe only political motives? Perhaps Wu’s decision to embrace a stronger line in removing the encampments at Mass. and Cass is fueled, at least in large measure, by her conviction that this is a better policy for Boston.

Ashley Adams