ACLU Files Lawsuit Against City Of Boston Over Mass. And Cass Evictions

Photo: Photo Courtesy of WBZ's Karyn Regal

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — On Thursday, a lawsuit was filed against the City of Boston for the ongoing evictions of homeless people from the area of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue, otherwise known as "Mass. and Cass." The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and law firm WilmerHale said in their original civil complaint that the City's displacement actions "fail to address the immediate and urgent needs of unsheltered residents, and put the health and safety of an already vulnerable population at even greater risk."

The document went on to request that City officials cease evicting people without first identifying viable alternative housing options for them.

According to a statement from the ACLU of Mass, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of three homeless people and others who resided at Mass. and Cass, claiming that "in spite of City officials' suggestions housing would be provided, the plaintiffs and others were driven out—under threat of arrest—with no viable housing options."

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"We can't sweep or arrest our way out of the intersecting crises at Mass. and Cass," said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Mass, "this plan is harmful and unconstitutional because it forces people to disperse with no safe space to sleep, while disconnecting them from the medical care they are able to receive at Mass. and Cass. Indeed, it's inconsistent with City assurances, public safety, and the law."

Acting Mayor Kim Janey declared the drug use and homelessness at Mass. and Cass a public health crisis during a City Hall announcement back on October 19. She said that the area of Mass. and Cass was not suitable for living, with problems ranging from numerous overdoses to human trafficking and sexual assault.

On Friday, Janey said during a COVID-19 Update at City Hall that while she will not respond to ongoing litigation outside of courts, the City's "approach has been a public health approach, where we first provide notice, we certainly provide storage, and we are working hard to identify beds- we are not asking anyone to remove their property and belongings, or to move off the streets without first identifying a place for them to go- that is appropriate."

On October 29, the City of Boston posted a statement on their website, which detailed the City's revised protocol, which includes an increase in enforcement.

WBZ's Madison Rogers (@madisonwbz) reports.

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