Eighty-three people have moved into new housing from encampments in the area of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, and space is available for the other 62 living there at the time of a December survey, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said on Monday, two days before her deadline for clearing the tents and connecting people with services.

The Boston Public Health Commission’s survey last month identified 145 people living in the area known as Mass. and Cass, which has become the epicenter of the city’s homelessness, addiction and mental health crises. The Wu administration after that survey set a Jan. 12 deadline for getting those 145 people into housing and other needed services.

As that date approaches, Wu on Monday said, “We continue to make progress on this goal.”

“Daily wellness checks continue to happen, especially as the temperatures have grown colder, and we continue to see people moving in, every single day, into the new housing that’s been created,” she said. “So this week marks a transition from a housing surge to community building and recovery. On Wednesday, the city will continue efforts to connect individuals with housing, take down the tents that are left behind and no longer needed, and begin clearing the street.”

Removing the encampments will take more than one day, Wu said, and city public health, public works and police officials will remain in the neighborhood after Wednesday.

As other officials have done, Wu described the situation at Mass. and Cass as a “humanitarian crisis.” She said the city’s efforts to address it are driven by a “public health and housing-led approach” and will involve medium-term and longer-term plans as well.

Almost all of the people surveyed last month said existing shelter options did not meet their needs and that they would like to move into low-threshold housing, Wu said.

Sheila Dillon, Boston’s housing chief, said the city has worked with the state and nonprofits to bring online low-threshold housing and shelter space. Spaces for 200 individuals have been identified, and 159 are now operational, she said.

Dr. Monica Bharel, the former state public health commissioner and an advisor to Wu, said everyone staying in the Mass. and Cass encampment will be “offered a safe indoor space to go.” Outreach will “intensify” between Monday and Wednesday, she said.

“We all know that the conditions are very unsafe in the encampment,” Bharel said. “In the last week with the temperatures plunging and the snow, we are worried about hypothermia, frostbite and other cold related injuries as well.”

(Copyright (c) 2022 State House News Service.

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