25 Investigates: Boston's Engagement Center temporarily shut down

25 Investigates: Boston's Engagement Center temporarily shut down

BOSTON — A center designed to get drug addicts off the streets and into vital services has been temporarily shut down.

Located near Boston’s notorious Methadone Mile, the large tent, known as The Engagement Center, was closed for renovations.

25 Investigates uncovered a series of concerns at the facility, including attempts to sell illegal drugs inside.

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The city tells us the center closed two weeks ago to get it ready for the winter. The total cost for the renovations, which include structural improvements to floors, walls, electrical and plumbing, was about $40 thousand.

The tent, which opened in August 2017 next to the Southampton Street men’s shelter, offers people access to housing assistance and addiction recovery programs.

25 Investigates first raised concerns about the center in October, after our undercover cameras spotted a woman slumped over on a bench, who appeared to be on the verge of passing out, and another a man struggling to stay upright. No staff members helped either person during the time 25 Investigates observed them.

“It’s basically an air-conditioned warehouse, as far as I’m concerned,” said Jim Stewart who runs the First Church shelter in Cambridge. “It gets folks out of sight, and in the extreme weather, of course, who's against having them off the streets? But what it does is it just concentrates them in a place where it's easier for municipalities, the state, to ignore.”

The city spent $1.5 million dollars to operate the center during its first year and as part of the 2019 budget, the Engagement Center will be made permanent.

Last month, Mayor Marty Walsh told us the facility is providing essential services and has been effective.

“We were trying to create a space to get people literally off of the street, off of the sidewalks, off of the curbs,” said Walsh. “While they're in there, we're trying to see if we can help certain people who are willing to get into recovery, but it's keeping some of the chaos off the street.”

Boston’s Public Health Commission, which runs the tent, says final inspections for the renovations are underway and the center is expected to re-open next week.

25 Investigates: Undercover Video Raises Questions about City’s Tent