Mayor Wu and other officials today announced a second drive to rid Mass and Cass of the tents that have sprung up there again - coupled with new programs to get people into transitional housing and to quickly squelch the rise of new encampments elsewhere in the city.
Wu will be submitting an ordinance to the City Council that would let police immediately remove tents, tarps and other structures on public ways - such as Atkinson Street - rather than first requiring 48 hours notice as currently called for. The city will also be setting up what Wu said would be a temporary shelter nearby with 30 beds for people who cannot immediately get into more permanent treatment or housing. Once they are placed, the shelter will be shut, she said.
"It is not a permanent shelter, not a day shelter," she said.
At a press conference this morning, Cox said a key issue with the new tents is that they are no longer just set up by homeless people but by drug dealers and other criminals preying on the homeless. Remove the tents and the criminals are exposed and easier to nab, he said, adding that in recent months Mass and Cass has seen double-digit increases in gun arrests and assaults, "making it just almost unbearable for the people who work down there."
Cox added that, coupled with this new ability, police will step up monitoring of other areas in the city - and use the same power to quickly remove tents there. This will include more frequent patrols "strategically placed where we think people go," he said.
"We are going be in every neighborhood just to be sure this doesn't occur," he said of possible movement of the mobile drug bazaar Mass and Cass has become, he said.
Wu said the new program shows that the city's efforts - one of her first major initiatives after winning election in 2021 was to call for the removal of Mass and Cass tents - are actually working, because people are getting into shelters and "low threshold" housing, and that the city has ramped up the infrastructure to help people who wind up at the crossroads, in a way the city had not previously done. She said the city has 200 new "transitional units" that have provided temporary housing for a total of 500 people - and that 149 former Mass and Cass denizens have been placed in permanent housing over the past 18 months.
"That has all been working," but now the city has to double down and not only help the people who flock to the area but to return Atkinson Street to "a functioning vehicular street open to travel" and to help long suffering Mass and Cass businesses and residents, she said.