‘It’s never ever been this bad’: 100+ tents set up along Methadone Mile concern community leaders

BOSTON — Community leaders are sounding the alarm on what they describe as a new ‘tent city’ forming along the so-called Methadone Mile. Neighbors, business leaders and public officials told Boston 25 News the network of tents now set up symbolizes a new level of urgency.

They said the number of tents has increased from a dozen to more than 100 in a matter of weeks.

It’s uncertain as to exactly what’s leading to the visible increase in encampments along the stretch of Mass Ave where the South End, Roxbury and South Boston meet. People who live and work in the area believe it’s a combination of non-profits donating tents, people stealing tents from stores and the open-air drug market the area is known for.

“Our windows get smashed every night. It’s like the wild west. It’s like a third world country,” said Ted Winston, owner of Winston Flowers at 160 Southampton St.

Winston is no longer having wedding and event clients come to the main location he’s operated for 30 years because he feels it’s become too dangerous.

He told Boston 25 News that safety concerns are also affecting hiring and retaining employees.

“People come, we interview them and they just don’t feel safe working here,” Winston explained. “I had a couple of people who are key employees who have left because of safety issues.”

Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins, whose offices and jail are located in the area, said he’s never witnessed the problem to this extent.

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“It’s just out of control. It has never ever, ever, ever been this bad,” Tompkins said to Boston 25 News. “Now it’s just off the rails.”

Tompkins believes the public health crisis is visibly spiraling and needs to be addressed immediately.

“I’m sure there are homeless populations across the country. We don’t live across the country. We live here in Boston,” Tompkins said. “There is no reason for such an affluent city/state to allow this type of thing to happen.”

Tompkins believes solving the issue starts with getting people the help they need to get off the streets.

“Let’s do away with the tents. Let’s find shelter for these individuals. Let’s get these individuals the treatment they need,” he added. “Other cities and towns across the commonwealth should start pitching in too. This can’t just be a Boston issue, and that’s what it feels like.”

A spokesperson for Mayor Kim Janey’s administration said the city has requested that the nearby Target in South Bay either move their tents out of reach of shoplifters or add anti-theft devices to the tents. The Janey administration also sent the following statement to Boston 25 News:

“We are taking action to improve both public health and public safety in the neighborhood. In just the past week, we referred 55 people into treatment. This is life-saving work. We are also targeting exploitative and criminal behavior in the area. Over the past month, we have made more than 30 drug-related arrests. There is more work to be done for those who are suffering from substance use and mental health issues. We will continue to take a coordinated approach to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood.”