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Mayor Wu announces ‘warm weather plan’ for Mass. and Cass, shares updates on long-term strategic response

The plan lays out steps to improve public safety and prevent encampments from forming, among other goals.

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
A member of the Boston Public Health Commission takes down a tent Nov. 1, 2021. Jessica Rinaldi/Boston Globe, File

Mayor Michelle Wu announced a plan Tuesday designed to address the humanitarian crisis in the area known as Mass and Cass, as more people spend time outdoors in the area with the arrival of warmer weather.

The plan aims to “improve public safety; enhance health and cleanliness; reduce overcrowding; and prevent encampments from forming,” according to a press release from the city. 

Those goals will be worked towards using the following 11 steps, according to the city:

  • Promote public safety through the Boston Police Department and Boston Public Health Commission Public Safety
  • Increase presence of joint public health and public safety outreach teams
  • Prevent encampments
  • Increase street cleaning
  • Promote safe environment for accessing services at Engagement Center
  • Increase parking enforcement
  • Make the neighborhood more beautiful and more walkable
  • Increase outreach
  • Open new day centers outside of the neighborhood
  • Provide transportation and referrals to day centers outside of the neighborhood
  • Strengthen supportive services at low-threshold shelter and housing sites

“There’s so much work to be done,” Wu said in a statement. “We know it won’t happen overnight. But I’m so proud and grateful to this team for doing this work, listening to our communities and continuing to find ways one step at a time, small details, big plans to keep us moving forward.”

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Recent months have seen the city taking action to address the crisis at Mass. and Cass by creating six low-threshold housing and shelter sites and clearing out encampments in January

The city’s “Warm Weather Plan” was developed in collaboration with 250 stakeholders, including city staff members, community members and public health and safety experts, Wu said. 

“[The Warm Weather Plan] is not just about making sure that recovery resources are available, but also accessible and making sure that every person can navigate the system of treatment, of shelter, and of services,” Wu said. 

Dr. Monica Bharel, a former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and current senior adviser to the mayor, is leading the city’s response to the crisis at Mass. and Cass.

She said a key feature of the new plan is that it is a coordinated response across city departments.

“This includes convening every day to plan the objectives for the day, across the city and in the Mass. Cass area in particular,” Bharel said. “In particular, the focus is on the needs for outreach and our people in potential encampments who need our services.”

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Wu also shared updates on the long-term plan for recovery and treatment services, as well as for low-threshold housing and shelter programs across the city. 

The long-term plan lays out enhanced outreach through both city and community-led teams; changes to service navigation to make services for unsheltered people more accessible; maintaining the six low-threshold housing options and redesigning shelter spaces to have them better serve the people who need them; decentralizing treatment services and creating a network of harm reduction services; and supporting recovery through services and expanding the behavioral health workforce, according to the city.

Wu emphasized that the work to help the crisis in the area of Mass and Cass. is not over with these announcements, “rather just beginning.”

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