Politics

Kim Janey responds sharply to Revere mayor’s criticism of Mass. and Cass housing plan

"To help provide services closer to the places that people call home, we need other cities and towns to step up."

Boston Mayor Kim Janey on Sept. 15. Matthew J. Lee / The Boston Globe, File

After the mayor of Revere criticized Boston officials’ plan to transfer homeless people from the so-called Mass. and Cass area to a hotel in his city, Acting Mayor Kim Janey shot back with a sharply worded statement Wednesday, imploring neighboring communities to do their part to take on the regional opioid crisis and knocking leaders “who fail to take responsibility in their own city or town.”

“To help provide services closer to the places that people call home, we need other cities and towns to step up,” Janey said. “This includes Revere.”

The statement comes after Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo wrote a letter this week pushing back against the Boston Public Health Commission’s plan to rent 30 rooms at the Quality Inn Hotel in Revere for currently homeless individuals in the area of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, as The Boston Globe reported. The plan is part of the city’s efforts to address Mass. and Cass, a regional epicenter of the opioid epidemic where advocates say open drug use, homelessness, and street violence have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially this summer.

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Arrigo had criticized the BPHC for a lack of communication and said the plan “endangered the progress we all hope to see for our community,” adding that he heard plans to rent anywhere from 30 to 160 rooms.

However, in her statement Wedneseday, Janey said BPHC officials had been in regular communication with Arrigo and his team, reviewing the plan and following up on requests. She also noted that “well over 60 percent” of the people seeking services in Boston come from outside the city.

“As the largest city in New England, we have appropriately built an even larger safety net, assisting those cities and towns who have not made similar commitments to support their residents,” Janey said.

Her statement added that while the city “will not back away from this moral,” it “must have strong partners throughout the Commonwealth to tackle this crisis.”

“Standing against this proposal means standing against 30 people having a place to call home,” Janey continued. “It means denying 30 people the health care they deserve at a time they need it most.”

Throughout the campaign for a full term as Boston mayor, candidates universally advocated for decentralizing services and a more regional approach to the opioid and homelessness crises, in order to relieve the increasingly public health and safety concerns at Mass. and Cass.

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In her statement Wednesday, Janey said that fellow “municipal leaders who say that we need to do this work as a region but who fail to take responsibility in their own city or town may be making a good sound bite.” 

“But,” she added, “it does not solve the problem. We need to stand up together to support our friends, family members and neighbors battling substance use disorder. I want to thank all the cities and towns who have already done so, and I hope Revere is willing to join that list.”

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