Boston Mayor Michelle Wu confirmed Friday that the city is evaluating housing sites for the population living in tent encampments scattered around the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, colloquially referred to as Mass. and Cass.
Wu’s housing identification plan, first reported this week by the Boston Herald, includes a now-vacant Best Western hotel in the neighborhood as one option for the approximately 200 units the city hopes to identify by the middle of the month. The site, colloquially known as the Roundhouse, previously received pushback from neighbors and community leaders.
“We are looking at sites all across the city so that we can provide enough beds that are low-threshold, supportive housing with medical services attached to each one of them,” Wu said. “A number of sites are on the table, including the Roundhouse.”
Wu added she has charged her team — which includes former state health department head Monica Bharel, Boston Public Health Commission director Dr. Bisola Ojikutu and city housing chief Sheila Dillon — to make sure they’re identifying the appropriate number of beds so that every person living at Mass. and Cass will have a place to live.
“It is a failure of our systems right now for people to be living in the cold with no access to running water and heat, so this is a matter of basic health and life safety,” Wu said. “My charge has been by mid-December, we need to have 200 beds that will house all of the residents currently in the encampments and connect people to services.”
She did not specify what other sites the city is weighing, saying only that the city is working with the state and “everything is on the table right now.”
The latest strategy to clear the area, if successful, would open a new chapter to the saga of how Boston addresses the confluence of homelessness, addiction, mental health and criminal activity issues on the streets around Mass. and Cass.
Earlier this year, under former acting Mayor Kim Janey's administration, the city began pursuing a plan to house a portion of the population in a Revere hotel. That plan was met with backlash and fizzled out without an official conclusion.
The city then began clearing tent encampments, arresting people with outstanding warrants and slowly moving the population into the limited housing available.
The latest plan was upheld by a judge who declined to halt the city's removal efforts last month.
Mass. and Cass became a focal point in the heat of this year's mayoral race.
On the campaign trail, Wu consistently vowed to identify potential housing options and work to move the population promptly.