Last of Tents at Former Homeless Encampment in Boston Being Removed, Mayor Pledges Housing

Removal of the last of the tents at a former homeless encampment in Boston began on Wednesday morning as Mayor Michelle Wu pledged housing for those who lived there.

The homeless encampment, known as Mass and Cass, sat by the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard. Wu had pledged by Wednesday to obtain housing for people who had been living there.

Dr. Monica Bharel, the former state public health commissioner who is now heading the city's efforts in the area, said that as of Wednesday morning, over 100 people who were living in the encampment had been relocated to housing.

On late Wednesday morning, bulldozers were being used to remove some of the tents, WCVB-TV reported. Around a dozen or so tents remained.

Wu, who took office in November, acknowledged it could take more than a day to remove the tents left, as some of them are large and fortified, according to WCVB-TV.

"Our goal from the beginning here was to take a different approach, one that was really grounded in the root causes of homelessness and the crises that people are living with here," Wu said at the scene.

"The encampments that we see and that some individuals have been living in for a number of years at this point, are not a safe or healthy place for anyone to be living. There's no heat, no running water, poor sanitation," Wu said Monday, according to NBC Boston. "We're really approaching past the point of urgency here."

Police were at the scene on Wednesday, but Wu and other city officials have said they do not want to criminalize homelessness.

"We will stay focused on housing and public health, and Boston police will continue to provide support ensuring it is a safe environment for all," Wu said, WCVB-TV reported.

Homeless Encampment, Boston, Removal
As of Wednesday morning, over 100 people who lived in a homeless encampment in Boston had been relocated to housing, Dr. Monica Bharel said. Above, volunteers hand out winter kit bags to homeless people on Massachusetts Avenue on December 10, 2020, in Boston. Getty Images

The city has approached the encampment as a humanitarian and public health crisis because many of its residents were drawn by methadone clinics and social services in the area and were considered vulnerable to trafficking and other dangers.

A city survey in December found as many as 140 people living in the camp, where drug dealing and use often occurs in the open.

Cleanup of the area began in October under then-acting Mayor Kim Janey, who declared addiction and homelessness a public health emergency.

The city Public Health Commission cited unhygienic conditions, such as a lack of running water and bathrooms, and the susceptibility of residents to "human trafficking, sex trafficking, and other forms of victimization," in its emergency declaration last year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.