Concerned neighbors at a community meeting Monday ripped apart a city plan to send homeless people from the Mass and Cass open-air drug market to the now-vacant 200-room Best Western Roundhouse Hotel.
Residents and business owners said they’re worried that the location of the hotel in the middle of the Mass and Cass crisis would be a public safety issue, that the services would extend from temporary to permanent, and that a new center would go against the goal of decentralizing services from the area.
“Everybody on this call sympathizes with the struggles that these people at Mass and Cass are facing every day, but the reason we’re even on this whole call in the first place is due to this whole over-centralization of services,” said Christopher Corey, who owns property along Northampton Street, “Which is basically what using the Roundhouse as a service center is doing all over again.”
The area can’t afford to add any more services there, he added during a meeting of the South End, Newmarket, Roxbury Working Group on Addiction, Recovery, and Homelessness.
“It’s just very confusing to me why we’re reevaluating this in the first place,” Corey said, later adding, “This just has disaster spelled all over it.”
Mayor Michelle Wu’s administration is working with Boston Medical Center to turn the now-vacant hotel into a multi-pronged treatment center.
It would include up to 60 housing beds and a medical triage area. People who have taken drugs could be monitored there under medical supervision. Staffers would work to connect people to more permanent services.
This plan would try to “stabilize the most challenging patient population, which is the folks who are in the encampments right now,” said Miriam Komaromy, medical director of the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center.
“They’re the ones who have the greatest challenges facing them, and they’re obviously the ones for whom the existing services have not succeeded in helping them to move out of the area,” she said. “So we designed this model with the specific goal of meeting these folks where they are in this neighborhood, and then having a clear plan for how to move them on from here.”
But nothing will change until the open-air drug trade is stopped in the area, said Sue Sullivan of the Newmarket Business Association.
“The fact they want to triage them right here and then go right back out on the streets … they’re not going to get better until that stops on the street here,” she added.
Resident Yahaira Lopez said she’s “really frustrated” by the city’s response to this Mass and Cass crisis, and what she said was a lack of attention to the community’s needs.
“This is a major safety issue,” she said. “Where is the civilian plan? Where is the safety plan?”
Wu responded to the neighbors’ concerns, emphasizing that “there cannot be an open-air drug market.”
“This is truly about transforming the area,” the mayor said, “Working with stakeholders to beautify, put resources into the streets and small businesses, and change that whole situation.”
This week, the city plans to announce the timeline for taking down encampments and transporting people to the Roundhouse Hotel.