Today, as part of the new Public Health & Human Rights for Mass and Cass Coalition, the FXB Center called on Boston Mayor-Elect Michelle Wu to implement a health-centered approach to the intersecting crises at Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue.
The area, more commonly known as “Mass. and Cass,” is home to unhoused individuals in need of public health supports and housing. The coalition recommends a six-point plan:
- Protect Civil Rights and Human Dignity in Encampments and Treatment Settings
- Conduct An Assessment of Needs and Solutions of and by Unhoused People
- Eliminate Systemic Barriers to Housing and Provide Dignified Non-Congregate Shelter
- Prevent Overdose Death and HIV Transmission and Expand Harm Reduction to Keep People Alive and Safe
- Expand Effective, Low Threshold Treatment through Immediate, Sustained Investment
- Decriminalize Drug Possession and End the Racist Drug War
The Coalition also proposes three immediate action steps for stakeholders to implement now:
- Establish non-congregate shelter and low-threshold transitional housing: Identify vacant motels, hotels, and city- and state-owned properties which could be immediately converted into non-congregate shelter and low-threshold transitional housing similar to what was done during the COVID pandemic using FEMA funds. Provide a range of housing types, including for individuals, couples, and families, that are not conditioned on sobriety and do not punish or exclude people for recurrence of use.
- Rapidly increase targeted voluntary treatment offerings: the State should put out a rapid cycle Request For Proposals (RFP) for healthcare and social service providers to deliver a range of voluntary treatment options for those who move into non-congregate shelter, transitional housing, and those who remain unsheltered, to enable rapid, on- demand access to proven treatment and services.
- Improve sanitation for those residing in encampments: While developing immediate non-congregate shelter options, the City should stop the sweeps and meet basic needs for people living in encampments in line with operative guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention until people have access to housing: trash receptacles and trash removal, bathrooms and sanitation, access to clean water and showers through mobile units or a permanent comfort station.
The Public Health & Human Rights for Mass and Cass Coalition includes: the Massachusetts Society of Addiction Medicine; Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program; BMC Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine; FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard; Health in Justice Action Lab at Northeastern University; Judy Bigby, MD; Alice Bukhman, MD, MPH; ACLU of Massachusetts; Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice; Material Aid and Advocacy Program; and Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts.
Read the full six-point plan: bit.ly/masscasshealth
Endorse the Coalition’s plan: bit.ly/masscasshealthsignon
Read ACLU Massachusetts’ press release here.