Janey administration defends role in controversial Methadone Mile hotel plans
The administration of acting mayor Kim Janey plans to inject money into the project to house the homeless in a hotel in Methadone Mile and defends the decision as a way to “get people off the streets”.
It comes as some residents and elected officials fear the idea for the hotel will only make matters worse at the corner of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue.
Boston’s health chief Marty Martinez told the Herald on Friday that the city would donate an as yet undetermined amount of money to help Victory Programs rent up to 35 rooms at the Best Western at 891 Massachusetts Ave., a building known as the rotunda. The rooms will house homeless people and drug addicts who live in the surrounding streets.
Martinez said Victory Programs was leading the initiative with a state grant, but envisioned a “lack of funding” – so the city agreed to kick-start what has become a deeply controversial project.
“Our number one goal is to get people off the streets,” Martinez said. He said it was not yet clear how much money the city planned to contribute and insisted, “It’s not city property – it’s not a city program.”
The building is located right in the heart of the city’s troubled “Mass and Cass” neighborhood, which is essentially an open-air drug market and crime haven known as the city’s Methadone Mile.
The plan, on which the city and addiction service provider Victory Programs have remained somewhat low profile, has sparked an uproar from residents, activists and local elected officials, who fear it could create a bad situation for people. placed near their dealers in the hotel – whose residents fear the city will end up filling with hundreds of people like a large poorly guarded shelter, further compounding problems in the region.
Martinez insisted that “there is no plan” for the other floors of the shuttered Roundhouse, and said that would not happen.
“We understand the concerns of some people,” Martinez said. But he said, “It takes people living in tents and stabilizes them.”
He said Victory Programs had a “list” of 20 or 30 people living on the streets who are “ready” to move into this type of housing.
Victory Programs, which has a good reputation in the region, held a virtual “stakeholders” meeting on Friday evening, but told the Herald that the press would not be allowed to participate in the Zoom appeal.
Steve Fox of the South End Forum community group said the closed-door process was “inappropriate” and “a transparent attempt to control the narrative, and that’s a shame.”
He said he and others were planning to hold a public meeting next week, to which he would invite the city and the vice president. He said the goal was to find out more about “what Victory Programs is offering and what the city is not telling us”.