The City Council agreed today to bring in city and state public-health experts to figure out what to do about increasing amounts of problems they say are happening from Dudley to Andrew because of the continued shutdown of the Long Island shelter and treatment programs.
The proposal for a formal hearing on the issue was sponsored by Councilors Kim Janey (Roxbury), Frank Baker (Dorchester) and Ed Flynn (South Boston, South End, Chinatown, downtown) - whose neighborhoods converge along the Methadone Mile on Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue.
Janey said the longstanding problem there has spread down Blue Hill Avenue and to Edward Everett, Andrew, Worcester and Dudley squares.
Although the city made "significant progress" getting folks into shelters and treatment after the sudden shutdown of the Long Island Bridge in 2014, more needs to be done, she said. "A walk along Melnea Cass Boulevard or through Dudley Square or on Blue Hill Avenue can be very shocking," she said, pointing to visible drug use, sexual abuse and violence.
She said a recent increase in police presence in Dudley Square has eased problems there, but added that that just pushes the problem somewhere else. "We cannot just put a Band-Aid on a bullet wound," she said, adding that in addition to police, public-health departments need to help city leaders come up with an answer.
Baker said the state and nearby communities have to do their part as well - and said he is tired of Boston becoming a dumping ground for suburban problems. "Communities are literally giving their people bus tickets to Boston," he said, adding that he will ask apparently homeless people along Dorchester Avenue where they're from and often hears places such as New Bedford and Fall River and even New Hampshire and Maine.
"We need state help," he said.
"It's critical that the bridge be re-opened," Flynn, formerly a Suffolk County probation officer who made weekly visits to the facilities there, said.
At-large councilors Annissa Essaibi George - who chairs the committee that will hold the hearing - and Ayanna Pressley, said whatever fixes are proposed need to be made with compassion for the street people themselves. Pressley said some people become homeless after they're unable to pay for particular medical care. And once on the streets, people may not want to go into shelters because they don't feel safe there, she said.