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Push for more to be done in 'Mass and Cass' neighborhood

WCVB Boston 10/19/2022
mass and cass oct. 18 © WCVB mass and cass oct. 18

More than 10 months since the city of Boston began work to clear the area near the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, area businesses claim the homelessness and substance abuse that have plagued the area is as bad as its been.

On Tuesday, NewsCenter 5 captured video of more tents set up along sidewalks packed with dozens of people along Southampton Street.

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Last month, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu told WCVB that, overall, the situation was better than it was a year ago.

One business owner said the area has become more dangerous in the last couple of months.

Gerry DiPierro, of DiPierro Construction, said local businesses have been dealing with the fallout from the Mass and Cass situation for years and claimed that things have gotten a lot worse recently.

"It's almost like it's changed a little where I've been assaulted," DiPierro said. "My secretary has been attacked, trying to take bags, pulling out knives. I had five people around me looking for money."

"Since July, they have responded to 11,353 incident calls, so that's a lot," Sue Sullivan, executive director of the Newmarket Business Association, said last week during a monthly roundtable. Those numbers do not include the major 911 calls that police receive in the area.

Wu said in September that a steady flow of people have been moving from Mass and Cass into transitional housing and from transitional housing into permanent housing.

"Overall, we are in a better place than we were a year ago," the mayor said last month. "It's not the same as where we were a year ago with fortified encampments and people who had been truly residing on the streets for years at that point."

Wu added, however, that the city has "a long way to go" when it comes to addressing the problems in that area.

"The city of Boston understands the urgency of addressing the crisis in this area through equity-focused, public health-led policies that address the needs of people experiencing homelessness, substance use disorders, and behavioral health issues," a statement from the mayor's office on Tuesday said. "Each person within this population has unique needs and requires resources from a continuum of services, such as health care, behavioral health care, substance use disorder treatment, harm reduction, and more. The city of Boston is constantly working to connect them with the appropriate services to support their health and wellbeing."

Wu's long-term plan to address the Mass and Cass situation includes pushing forward the controversial goal of rebuilding the bridge to Long Island and creating a recovery campus on the property.

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