BOSTON – If you've been anywhere near Methadone Mile (the area around Massachusetts Ave and Southampton St) you've likely witnessed a huge issue facing our city: countless homeless people and drug users often harming themselves due to overdoses.
It didn't seem like the city was doing all that much to confront this issue, until a fight broke out between and off-duty corrections officer and various homeless people. It's unclear what sparked this confrontation, but in the wake of this, the city decided to do two sweeps of the area, arresting 34 people.
The idea was simple: come in, arrest those who are breaking the law, and try and make the area safer. The result however, was that people fled that neighborhood and are now spilling into South End, Roxbury, and Dorchester. This, weirdly, has made the issue worse, as it makes the job of the police much harder because all the users are spread out in various neighborhoods.
According to Universal Hub: "Jay'dha Rackard, an 11-year-old from Roxbury who had been going to the Orchard Gardens School, near what City Councilor Kim Janey called 'Ground Zero,' had to wipe away tears before talking about how she's transferring this fall to the Davis Leadership Academy, because she could no longer take going to a school where addicts would congregate regularly to shoot up, leaving behind endless numbers of needles, and worse."
This sparked a huge debate at a recent South End community meeting, as calls for treating homeless people with more humanity clashed with those people who are afraid to walk around their neighborhoods in fear of seeing someone using.
The idea now is to relocate the homeless back to their original area and try to give them the help and services they need, rather than using the threat of arrests to displace them. But this is by no means a simple task; the issue is extremely complicated, as summarized by Marty Martinez, Boston's chief of health and human services. He noted the difficulty of "balancing the needs of the homeless and the addicted with the needs of residents to be safe on their streets."
"There is no simple answer. Anyone who tells you there is a simple answer is lying."