Boston city officials have set a deadline for people living in tents in the area known as Mass. and Cass, telling residents Friday that they'd have to be out early Monday morning.
Notices said the cleanup will start at 8 a.m. that morning, and the city confirmed Friday that it was stepping up enforcement of its recent push to clear the area. Information posted on the city's website explained the steps that were being taken, including the notification of residents of shelter and services.
However, some residents said Friday they received the notice but weren't aware of offers to go anywhere else.
The encampment has grown over the last several months, and the city has said the tent encampment is a public health risk, unsanitary and dangerous.
City officials insisted Friday that people wouldn't be asked to vacate the area without getting an offer of shelter, services or both, and the city's website said offers would be made twice: on the day the notice goes up and at least a day before the tents are removed.
But Mass. and Cass residents like Tina Lunn said Friday they hadn't gotten any offers so far.
While Lunn is tired of living in a tent, she doesn't want to be kicked out either. She wants more time to figure out a plan.
‘I hate it out here. I don’t want to be out here,” she said. "It’s not about getting high and doing drugs and whatever else. It’s about keeping ourselves sheltered, warm and dry.”
Like the hundreds of others living in Boston’s tent encampment, Lunn got a notice on Friday alerting residents that the tents around Southampton Street will be removed Monday morning at 8.
"They just left a notice and told us to get out. I think it's just despicable that they're not helping us more than they are," she said.
Northeastern University Professor Leo Beletsky, an expert in drug policy and public health, says "this could absolutely backfire."
He says the ultimatum residents are facing is not a good idea, and fears many will just disperse around the city. Beletsky believes more preventative measures need to be taken to address affordable housing, mental health and substance abuse.
“This very situation arose a couple of years ago when Mass. and Cass was cleared out under Operation Clean Sweep,” he said. “And we’re back where we started so clearly this kind of approach doesn’t work.”
Some living in the tents worry about what will happen come Monday morning when their deadline to move out is up. Resident Ray Vargas said he doesn't think everyone living in the area will leave on their own.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of melee,” said Vargas, who’s lived in a tent for about four months. “I think there’s going to be a lot of problems because not everybody’s going to leave on their own. I think they’re going to have to come up with a game plan.”
The area near Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard has been inundated with people struggling with homelessness and addiction. It's also become a haven for crimes.
This month, Boston Mayor Kim Janey said the rampant drug use and homelessness in the area was a public health crisis and vowed to remove the tents scattered along the sidewalks near the intersection.
On Monday, Boston Public Health Commission employees went out with bins to help people start to pack up their belongings, but no one or their personal belongings were seen being forcibly removed. City workers spoke with people about housing alternatives as well as options for mental health resources and treatment for drug addiction.
Linda Sprague Martinez, an expert in social welfare policy at Boston University's School of Social Work, has said she hopes the city continues to take a slow approach to the process and emphasized the importance of taking the time to ensure that the effort does not fail the neighborhood or the people who are living in the homeless encampment.
“We don’t need to say, ‘Rush, rush, rush. Everyone out.' That’s not going to solve the problem because what will happen is, there’ll be a new tent tomorrow, or it’ll pop up somewhere else," Martinez said this week. "I don’t think we can make an assumption that, ‘I know what’s best for you, I think you need to stop using drugs right away.' I think people need to hear their options."
Officials have estimated that about 150 tents need to come down.
The cleanups earlier this week were in areas that needed scheduled building maintenance, officials have said.