Boston Pop Warner Program considers folding due to drug activity, littered needles, encampments

BOSTON — The Boston Bengals Pop Warner Football and Cheer Program is at risk of folding just one month into its 2021 season due to drastically declining enrollment.

The program’s president blames safety concerns at the park they practice at that he says are spilling over from so-called Methadone Mile.

Some parents are no longer comfortable sending their kids to practice at Clifford Park due to the littered needles, open drug use and encampments.

The Boston Bengals, which has five age brackets ranging from 5 to 14, will make a decision this Friday on whether they’ll be able to continue playing with so few players left.

“We went from 300+ student athletes down to 30, and it’s all because of what spills over from Mass and Cass,” said Domingos DaRosa, President of the Boston Bengals. “Parents keep pulling their kids out, and I understand why.”

DaRosa is a running for Boston City Councilor At-Large and has been a vocal community activist on the growing public health crisis in the area.

He said this time he’s speaking up for the youth that have been witnessing uncomfortable things on a regular basis.

“We’re having folks overdosing in the middle of our practice,” explained DaRosa. “We’ve had a couple of young folks who almost got pricked because of used needles hidden in the grass.”

Boston 25 News reported this week on an unprecedented number of encampments forming near the Roxbury South End border.

Parents whose kids are still enrolled in the Boston Bengals program are furious that the situation has gotten to this point.

“The biggest thing that worries me is the lack of accountability going on whether it’s from the city leaders, the state leaders or at the federal level,” said Edson DaSilva, who has two kids enrolled in the Boston Bengals. “My kids have been exposed to things they’ve never had to deal with.”

Boston 25 News reached out to Governor Charlie Baker’s Office for comment on this issue Wednesday afternoon but have not heard back.

During a previous report, a spokesperson for Mayor Kim Janey’s Office told Boston 25 News that the city is “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,” the written statement went on to read. “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.”

The city of Boston permanently closed its comfort station on Atkinson Street at the end of July.

The facility had been set up to provide basic services such as bathrooms to people struggling with homelessness and addiction.

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