Violence on the Mile

Last week was quite a busy week on what has become known as Methadone Mile, a line of city blocks that goes down Melina Cass Blvd., where Southampton Shelter and many other shelters for the homeless are located. For quite some time now, there have been complaints about people openly using drugs on the mile, as well as push back from Boston police officers when businesses in the neighborhood complain. 

But last week all that push back went to a whole new level when a corrections officer from the South Bay Correctional Facility, which is conveniently located on the mile, was assaulted by a group of homeless people. Now depending on who you talk to, some say the officer started the whole thing by getting into it with someone who was actively using and was sucker punched. Others say the whole thing was over a homeless addict who died while in custody, while others say the homeless guy started the whole thing. Either way the whole thing got out of hand, and while I don’t condone violence what happened in the aftermath was also an act of violence. In response to the attack on the officer the city had law enforcement crackdown on the mile in what was called Operation Clean Sweep. 

During this so-called sweep, homeless people were arrested and people’s belongings were thrown away. This included wheelchairs that were thrown into garbage trucks and crushed. Advocates who help feed and cloth homeless people were told to go away by police, and the sweep forced many who were too scared to visit service providers into hiding, because many of those services are located on the mile. 

Of course spokespeople for the city and Boston Police Department made excuses for what was going on. “The operation was taken up in an effort to address ongoing community concerns.” Of course, the mainstream media played along, as always, painting a picture of the homeless as being out of control drug addicts and law enforcement as being the good guys. So here is my take:

  1. Boston police spokesman John Boyle said to Boston.com that the sweep had a goal of “addressing concerns in rising crime in the area that predated the assault on the officer.” Sure, there has been crime on the mile, crimes against the homeless, beatings, robberies, rapes, the list goes on and on, and yet there was never any response like this for them. So that explanation doesn’t hold water.
  2. The City really has no one to blame but themselves for “The Mile.” It’s the result of closing down a shelter with nearly 700 beds with recovery programs and no game plan. So hey, Newmarket Square and South End residents, don’t attack the people suffering from a disease; attack the city. Speaking of…
  3. What about the plan to reopen the Island? We heard there was a plan to rebuild the bridge but the city of Quincy doesn’t want it there. So which is it? Is there a plan B?
  4. Getting back to number one: There were needles, lots of them in front of a nearby elementary school, so why wasn’t there a “Clean Sweep then? Just asking.
  5. Finally we are tired of this excuse that many of the homeless in Boston are not even from here, and that’s why there are so many. Sounds a tad Trumpian to me. What’s next, build a wall around the Tobin Bridge?

Lastly, those people on the Mile are human beings; yes, some suffer from a disease called addiction. It doesn’t make them any less human. They are someone’s loved one. Remember that. Don’t worry we’ll be here to remind you.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

Top