Debate erupted over the past week as two different plans to address Mass & Cass came to light. Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins got some backlash when he suggested housing people who are at the intersection Mass & Cass — where Massachusetts Ave and Melnea Cass Boulevard meet — in a facility formerly used for ICE detainees.
Tompkins joined Greater Boston on Monday night to discuss with host Jim Braude.
“We don’t live in a perfect world, and therein lies the problem,” he said. “If in fact we spent our governmental dollars in front of the curve rather than behind the curve, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, Jim, but we don’t do that.”
Tompkins said that he believes Massachusetts’ Secretary of Health and Human Services MaryLou Sudders was a “willing participant” in his proposal, and believes that District Attorney Rachael Rollins and mayoral candidiates Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George would also be on board.
“It’s now sitting vacant, and I can house up to a hundred people. So I said, ‘Well, look, why don’t we open up that facility? I have a full-blown medical team, I have a full-blown substance abuse team, bring folk in, get them off the street, get them cleaned up’ — what I mean by that is have a shower, a meal, a bed — and treat them,” he said. “And then let’s start the process of, where would they go from here?”
On the concern that the facility would simply be another jail, Tompkins said, “I can’t tell you how many parents have said to us in years past, ‘You know, I wish my son or daughter were in jail, because at least we’d know that they were off the street and getting the care that they need.’
“There are also naysayers that feel that people shouldn’t be in an incarceration facility,” he continued, “and to that I say, ‘Talk to legislators about putting more money out on the street to create beds for mental health and substance abuse.’”
Another plan was put forward by Acting Mayor Kim Janey to rent out hotel rooms in the neighboring city of Revere for those living at Mass & Cass, which Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo opposed. “Thirty beds isn’t a plan,” he said last Thursday. “Thirty beds is a Band-Aid on a situation — a crisis — in the City of Boston that needs real leadership and real support.”
WATCH: Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins On His Mass & Cass Proposal