For over 3 years, the heroin epidemic has been spiraling out of control in the city of Boston. The most affected neighborhoods being Roxbury and the South End. Ground zero is the New Market area between the two.
As residents, we stood patiently with empathy as Long Island shelter was closed. As residents, we quickly learned that the city was unprepared to address what would come next.
The New Market area quickly became an open air drug market reminiscent of “Hamsterdam” in the HBO hit series “the Wire”. With that came all the crimes and problems that are associated with drug addiction. Trespassing, loitering, theft, public indecency, prostitution, drug dealing, breaking and entering, larceny, squatting, arson and more. Mind you these crimes are not confined to New Market. They start there and drift into the surrounding neighborhoods. Both the South End and Roxbury residents experience many of these crimes daily. They experience them with no sign of future relief and little to no communication of a plan and/or resources to combat it had/has been shared with residents.
Then came the last straw. Coaches, parents, children, pet owners and other residents began finding heroin in the parks. Clifford Park, Dennis Street Park, Mary Hannon Park, Michael Bivins Park were the first 4 of many identified. We visited the parks regularly. On each visit we found “blooded” “dirty” needles in the grass, bleachers, courts. We found used condoms. We found human waste. This became an intolerable public safety risk.
Over 50 local residents organized and pushed for more. Online we used the hashtag #heroininthepark to document and raise awareness to the issues. We put in countless complaints to elected officials who represent the area. We contacted 311 several dozens of times.
While we were not under the illusion that any of them would immediately be able to remedy the issue. Our ask was modest and I believe realistic.
District 7 bears the brunt of the opioid epidemic due to the over saturation of methadone clinics, half-way houses and sober homes in specific communities. Our ask was that the city commit to staffing a crew with the training and capacity to ensure that our parks where we and our families play and exercise are safe and free from danger and disease. To date this ask has not been fulfilled. At-large Councilor Essabi-George has stated that she has gotten the city to double the amount of staff. However, I found this answer to be insufficient. Without knowing what the current staff levels are, “doubling” doesn’t ensure the capacity needed to maintain the parks and streets regularly affected.
In the meantime, people are having their cars broken into. They are seeing fires in their neighborhood from squatters. They are avoiding their local parks and playgrounds. People are worrying about their walk home after work.
Obviously, a comprehensive public health plan is needed and should start with treatment beds. Then the beds need to be made available for longer.
In the meantime, the residents of District 7 deserve better. They deserve the extra resources necessary to immediately address the multiple issues dealt with daily.
As an experienced leader, committed to creating a solution, this should stay at the forefront until properly addressed. I have not seen or heard that level of commitment from current government leaders; elected or appointed. As District 7 Councilor, I will continue to advocate, address and even annoy those who should be working side by side to create solutions for our neighborhoods and find treatment for those suffering the affliction of addiction.
If you’d like to be a part of these efforts, contact me directly at 617-318-6318.
leader | advocate | organizer