How do you balance public safety and neighborhood quality of life concerns with support for the most marginalized people in a community?
Those issues exploded into public view with the recent arrests of homeless people and drug users as part of “Operation Clean Sweep,” a set of Boston police actions centered on the streets near Newmarket Square where the city’s South End, Roxbury, and Dorchester neighborhoods converge.
But the issues are nothing new to state Rep. Liz Miranda and her constituents. She grew up in the shadow of Newmarket Square in a tight-knit Cape Verdean enclave of Roxbury, and says residents have been dealing for years with problems stemming from the concentration of drug treatment facilities and homeless shelters on their doorstep. The situation has gotten dramatically worse, she said, since the 2014 closing of the city’s shelter and addiction treatment facilities on Long Island.
For the former community organizer who is serving her first term in the House, the controversy that boiled over earlier this month brought some satisfaction that attention is finally being paid to the problems, mixed with concern over the approach city officials took, and questions about why longstanding community calls to deal with the deteriorating situation had gone ignored until now.
This “is a community that’s been speaking up pretty loudly for the last couple of years saying we need help,” Miranda said on The Codcast. “There’s a clear saturation of services at this corner that I don’t see another city or town or even another neighborhood being able to withstand.”
“This is a statewide problem,” she said. “Boston cannot solve it alone.”
Miranda was joined by Yawu Miler, senior editor of the Bay State Banner, who wrote about the issue in the paper’s current issue.
The area near Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass, referred to by some as Methadone Mile because of the concentration of drug treatment facilities there, has long been a gathering place for the homeless and those dealing with drug addiction. But when a corrections officer driving to work at the nearby South Bay House of Correction was attacked by a group of people gathered on the street, the police response was swift. Police carried out several sweeps of the area, arresting more than two dozen people on various charges and outstanding warrants.
Advocates for the homeless have decried the sweeps, especially the most recent one, in which several wheelchairs used by people gathered on the streets were tossed into a city garbage truck and crushed. Some area residents, meanwhile, wonder why it took an attack on a law enforcement officer to have their longstanding complaints about activity in the area taken seriously.
Miranda said the issue raises complicated issues of race, class, and the challenge of balancing compassion with growing anger among her constituents at the concentration of social services in their community. (She unspooled some of these in a lengthy Facebook post.)
Clifford Playground in Roxbury and the Mason and Orchard Gardens elementary schools grounds have become unsafe for children, she said. At Orchard Gardens, students, parents, and staff have been waging a years-long battle to draw attention to needles that drug users scatter on the playground.
“We have a prison, we have a biolab, we have multiple methadone clinics, we have a hospital, we have multiple shelters, we have multiple sober homes, some that are registered with the Commonwealth, some that are not — all concentrated in a community that’s already struggling, a working class, poor community,” said Miranda.
Unlike many communities, the area has always welcomed programs aimed at helping the homeless and those suffering with addiction or other challenges, she said. Indeed, Miranda has filed a bill this year aimed at helping homeless people. But “what’s a fair share?” she asked.
Miller said everyone he spoke with for his article felt those struggling with addiction or mental illness “need to be taken care of.” But he said there is also a growing sense that the situation is “becoming intolerable.”
He echoed Miranda’s lament about poor and minority neighborhoods being asked to shoulder more than their fair share of services for these populations.
He offered a concrete example of how that erodes efforts to revive a neighborhood. The gleaming new Boston Public Schools headquarters in Dudley Square was a great addition to a long-struggling business district. The Bolling Building initially made its restrooms open to the public, a nice amenity at a busy crossroads. But after drug users started using the facilities to inject themselves, that ended.
“There’s a sandwich board sign as you walk into the lobby that says, sorry, no public restrooms,” said Miller. “I put it under the this-is-why-we-can’t-have-nice-things umbrella,” he said of ways that minority neighborhoods are dragged down. “When you think about somebody who’s struggling with addiction in abstract, you’re, like, get them services. When their actions start to have an impact on your life, then you start to think about it in a different way.”
Miranda said she opposed the way police addressed the situation with the recent sweeps. “I think it was reactive,” she said. “You can’t do anything in isolation.” But she says business owners in the area and residents need their interests protected as well.
“I don’t have all the answers,” said Miranda. But the solution has to involve a way “to keep people safe, keep a high quality of life, but get people the help they need.”
A state commission recommends licensing of recovery coaches – former drug addicts who have been in recovery for years and can help others get healthy. (Eagle-Tribune)
Policy guidance statements issued in June by the state Department of Agricultural Resources and the Department of Public Health are having impact on which hemp-derived products are and are not approved for sale in the state. (Worcester Telegram)
A group of 150 mostly Jewish activists protested 90 beds being held for federal immigration enforcement at the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction in Greenfield on Sunday morning. The beds are to hold for undocumented immigrants involved in alleged criminal activity and facing deportation. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Corrections officers had not checked on Jeffrey Epstein for several hours before he was found hanging in his cell in a federal detention center in New York City on Saturday. (Washington Post)
Former white supremacist Christian Picciolini hears a lot of familiar terms these days – such as the “Hispanic invasion” refrain from the gunman in El Paso – and he believes that unwarranted compassion towards hate-filled supremacists can be the most powerful gesture to break them from their ideology. (WBUR)
Mike Signer, who was mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, when white supremacists assembled there two years ago, is spending some time atoning for the missteps in his city, and he believes curbing extremism will require time and political will. (NPR)
There is striking overlap between the rhetoric of right-wing media personalities and the language used by the Texas man who has confessed to massacring 22 people in an El Paso Walmart store. (New York Times)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that in September the Senate will take up proposals to reduce gun violence. (NPR)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan for reducing gun deaths includes creating a federal licensing system, limiting the number of guns one person can buy, raising the age someone can buy a gun, putting new taxes on guns, and investigating the gun lobby. (NPR)
Chip Tuttle, the chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs, hopes that a 1998 decision will allow him to set up shop in Great Barrington with thoroughbred races to begin next year. (Berkshire Eagle)
The building that once housed The Dakota restaurant – a popular spot in Pittsfield – has been sold to an Arizona company that has made plans to open a marijuana dispensary. (Berkshire Eagle)
Encore Boston’s hiring of thousands of new employees is putting a squeeze on an already tight labor market for restaurant workers in the Boston area. (Boston Herald)
The Farm at Stonehill College is trying to address hunger in Brockton by donating its fresh produce to area organizations who in turn sell it for low prices at a mobile market in Brockton every Wednesday from mid-June to early November. (Brockton Enterprise)
The Red Cross is temporarily suspending its mobile blood drives in central and western Massachusetts because of challenging economic conditions facing the organization. (MetroWest Daily News)
A Plymouth County man tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis, also known as EEE, the first human case of the potentially deadly disease in Massachusetts since 2013. (WBUR)
Quincy may find itself as the largest city in the state without an emergency room, following the pending closure of Quincy Medical Center’s ER. (Patriot Ledger)
Cape Ann Cinema & Stage is losing its home in Gloucester, but the entity will hold pop-up movie screenings at various locations. (Gloucester Daily Times)
The MBTA plans to shut down big sections of the core subway system on weekends this fall in order to speed repair work. (Boston Globe)
The problems at the state Registry of Motor Vehicles were well known within the agency — and ignored for years. (Boston Globe)
MIT management professor David Keith makes the case for congestion pricing of Boston area highways. (Boston Globe)
Federal regulators put on hold their review of the Vineyard WInd, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the offshore energy project. (CommonWealth) One issue that the feds may be focusing on: The proposed layout of the project’s wind turbines, which has faced criticism from area fishing interests. (CommonWealth)
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse voice support for legislation to impose a fee on carbon fuels in the state. (CommonWealth)
A group of lawmakers and community leaders completed a four-day kayak journey down the Merrimack River where they encountered thunderstorms and sewer discharges that threaten the health of the waterway. (Eagle-Tribune)
Cape Ann’s clam diggers have had little respite as red tides and heavy rains have prevented them from harvesting this summer. (Salem News)
A woman fell 80 feet off a cliff at Squaw Peak in Great Barrington and survived, but she suffered multiple fractures. (Berkshire Eagle)
A move to change trap and pot fishing off the US coast to better protect North Atlantic right whales is underway, as federal regulators listen to public feedback this month from Maine to Rhode Island. (Cape Cod Times)
Former state senator Thomas Norton says it’s time to cut Southeastern Mass. in on the casino conversation in the state. (CommonWealth)
The recent death of longtime Boston researcher George Kelling, coauthor of the seminal 1982 “Broken Windows” article that ushered in an era of police focus on quality-of-life concerns in city neighborhoods, has revived a longstanding debate over whether the idea empowers communities — or puts them under siege. (CommonWealth)
A loaded handgun was found in a child’s backpack at a Peabody day care center, and the child’s father is facing charges. (The Item)
Police have charged a Connecticut man in connection with a stabbing at the Residence Inn in Dartmouth during the early morning hours of Saturday. (Standard-Times)