Boston authorities responded to a series of daytime stabbings around an open-air drug market by clearing the area of people and temporarily shutting down an engagement center that serves the area's chronically homeless people, the Boston Globe reports. Police said at least five stabbings were reported from late Sunday afternoon through Tuesday afternoon near the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard. The area, known as Mass. and Cass, is the epicenter of the city's opioid and homelessness epidemics.
The engagement center opened in December. It provides a daytime drop-in space for people struggling with addiction and homelessness, offering food, shelter, clothing, treatment resources and access to medical care, according to city officials. A spokesman for Mayor Michelle Wu's office said public safety concerns required that the center and Atkinson Street be shut down "for a few days." Outreach teams will continue to provide services, the spokesman said. Even after the city cleared the area of homeless encampments in January, scores of people still gathered daily on the sidewalks of Atkinson to seek, sell, and use hard drugs. One critic of the city's actions, Jim Stewart of SIFMA Now!, a group that advocates for safe-consumption sites, said the crackdown is "not a public health or community policing response." Said Stewart, "Every other time they've done this, it just disrupts everything, support systems, harm reduction between clients, puts people at risk in the surrounding communities."