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Mayor Wu says she and Gov. Baker see Mass. & Cass needs differently

"The reality is that I will not be happy or satisfied until all of the people who are on our waitlist ... have a smooth, humane, and effective system that they can be plugged into."

Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu
Gov. Charlie Baker (left) and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. Pat Greenhouse and David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe
Wu & Baker

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu on Friday said she believes she and Gov. Charlie Baker simply have different understandings of the urgent needs of the city’s Mass. and Cass area, which has become known for its widespread and overlapping substance use, homelessness, and humanitarian crises.

“I think we have different approaches in terms of proximity to the situation and therefore understanding of what the urgent needs are,” Wu said, during an interview on GBH’s “Boston Public Radio.”

“I think we see Mass. and Cass differently,” she added later. “I am incredibly grateful for the funding that the state has put in. But the reality is that I will not be happy or satisfied until all of the people who are on our waitlist — who have come from outside of Boston and outside of the state, in some cases — have a smooth, humane, and effective system that they can be plugged into.”

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The comments follow a rare, public-spat between the mayor and the governor last month, which began when the former called on the state to create 1,000 new units of low-barrier, transitional housing outside the city to help address the multitude of issues in the area, including addiction, mental health, and homelessness.

Since January, the city has created 192 of those kinds of units, but there still remains great need, officials say. As of Friday, there was a waitlist with over 150 people, Wu said.

Soon after Wu’s call for more units, the Baker Administration sent her a letter outlining how the state has already spent over $40 million to address the crises, including through working in “close partnership with the city” on bringing about the low-threshold cottages at the Shattuck

The state’s Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, who penned the letter, wrote the city instead needs to do more, such as by pursuing “criminal investigations and community policing efforts” in the area.

Wu fired back by saying there remains no supportive housing sites outside of Boston to help individuals experiencing homelessness, and revisited that point on GBH on Friday.

“We have seen amazing work over the last 12 months,” the mayor said. “We’ve seen transformation for dozens of individuals who’ve been able to access the housing that the city and, in some cases, the state has partnered on. But this needs to happen all across the state and we need to see access to this kind of approach and the outcomes that it produces not just here in one city. It’s more than one city can deal with.”

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