Mayoral hopeful Annissa Essaibi-George hit Methadone Mile Sunday saying it’s time for the city to plan an intervention to “end the devastation” of addiction and homelessness fueling a public health crisis there.
“Over the past six months, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in tents and uptick in violence, and new substances have flooded the area. There are plenty of open shelter beds, but there are still tents that remain, leading to a cycle of more drug use, more violence and more lives lost,” Essaibi-George said. “We are not helping any individual who is in crisis by allowing them to stay in tents on our streets.”
Essaibi-George pledged to begin addressing the worsening crisis at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue of Melnea Cass Boulevard on “Day 1” of her administration.
She pledged to declare a “public health emergency zone” in a one-mile radius around the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard and appoint a Mass and Cass czar to oversee the city’s response to breaking up the encampment and deploying services to those in need.
Essaibi-George said she’d allocate $30 million of federal infrastructure money the city received this year to immediately deploy services to those suffering from addiction and mental-health issues. Her longer-term solution relies on housing production and the reopening of the Long Island campus that once housed services for people who are homeless and addicted to drugs.
Essaibi-George said the solution “requires tough decisions and action, not more stalling” and said she has “the relationships, the knowledge, the experience to tackle Mass & Cass on Day One.”
“You cannot say the same about Michelle Wu,” Essaibi-George added, taking a jab at her opponent.
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It’s a position Wu refuted, telling the Herald this weekend that her relationships allow her to effect much broader and more significant change than her fellow at-large city councilor and mayoral hopeful.
Both of the candidates — one of whom one will be the mayor in just one month, Nov. 16 — align somewhat on the latest hot-button Mass and Cass issues.
As Essaibi-George spoke Sunday on Southampton Street, dozens of tightly packed tents lined the street. Trash, including cigarette butts and the bright-orange caps from hypodermic needles, spilled from the tents and across the sidewalks.
“How is this acceptable,” the city councilor-at large turned mayoral contender asked. “There is no immediate plan, no immediate response or action from the city, the state or the region to help those that are suffering.”
Tom McKeever, president of SEIU Local 180 which represents more than 1,800 state and city workers, said the homeless population “had doubled if not quadrupled in size in recent months, presenting sanitation and safety issues for workers and the homeless alike.
The Boston Public Health Commission this weekend issued a warning over a dangerous rat-borne disease called leptospirosis putting the homeless at “high risk” as the rodent population booms alongside the squalor.