‘Clean sweep’ becomes policy

The Walsh administration has announced an initiative aimed at clearing homeless people from the Melnea Cass/Massachusetts Avenue neighborhood, in a follow up to last summer’s action against Boston’s homeless, known as “Operation Clean Sweep,” with its Melnea Cass/Mass Ave. 2.0 plan. 

“While no neighborhood or group of people has escaped this crisis, the areas of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, and Newmarket Square have become the most public face of the epidemic,” Walsh wrote in a cover letter outlining the initiative. “Individuals struggling with substance use disorder, homelessness and mental health have been drawn to the area due to the availability of treatment, health care and shelter. We recognize the impact this is having on nearby residents, businesses and surrounding communities who have borne a disproportionate share of the issue.” 

The plan is divided into four parts: coordination and alignment of services, public health, quality of life, and public safety. The release also details the city’s “approach” and “values” regarding the strategy. The plan will employ the services of numerous city departments, including the Police, the Department of Public Works, Emergency Medical Services, and the Office of Recovery Services. According to the release, the city will evaluate the plan’s progress every six months. 

According to the release by the city, “The Department of Neighborhood Development, Mayor’s Office

of Recovery Services, Boston Public Health Commission and Pine Street Inn will use street outreach and shelter utilization data to create a targeted list of 40-60 unsheltered persons to be prioritized for assessment, referral and placement.” The agencies tasked with creating the targeted list will hold weekly meetings about the people on the list in order to “identify the right intervention and supports to transition off the streets.” 

Another one of the goals outlined in the plan is to reduce overdose deaths by providing more overdose prevention training to police, community groups, businesses, and treatment providers in the area. The goal is to increase the number of agencies with this training by 50 percent, from the current amount of 14 to 21. 

Another step the city is taking to reduce deaths by overdose is providing Narcan kits to five publicly owned buildings in the neighborhood. The city also intends to increase the number of “post overdose response visits” by the City of Boston Post Overdose Response Team, which is staffed by members of the Boston Fire Department and the Office of Recovery Services. 

The city is also planning to fight the spread of diseases that can be transmitted through the sharing of needles by increasing the distribution of clean syringes and providing more places where used syringes may be disposed of in areas beyond Massachusetts Ave. and Melnea Cass Blvd. There will also be monthly testing provided for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, at the 112 Southampton Street and Woods Mullen shelters. 

The city will also add eight new members to its street outreach team, and try to educate the public about issues surrounding addiction, including how the stigmatization of addicts and addiction can pose a barrier to treatment. They are also planning to provide more “gender specific”services, particularly to women who are engaged in sex work.

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