‘It’s like a fiesta’: Over 150 people still congregating in Boston’s open air drug market

Boston -  The crowds keep coming to Boston’s Mass & Cass corridor eight months after the city cleared more than 100 tents from the area.

Weekly headcounts are sometimes totaling an average of more than 150 people congregating on a stretch of Southampton Street.

The Newmarket Business Improvement District estimates that about 75 percent of those people showed up after the city’s January cleanup.

That’s when more than 200 people were placed in housing. Some of those people are now fighting to avoid ending up back on the streets.

“I’ve been jumped before. I’ve been taken advantage of,” said Tarsha. “Because I owed someone money, I’ve been electrocuted. I’ve been hit in the face by men.”

Tarsha told Boston 25 News she’s suffered physical abuse, contracted HIV and dealt with agonizing mental trauma over the last decade in the Mass & Cass area.

She said she received a glimmer of hope back in January when she was placed in low-threshold housing.

Now she’s worried she could be forced back out into the life she thought she escaped.

“I was told I have until October 9th to find a place or I have to go sleep back in the shelter, and I’d rather sleep on the streets,” she said.

Tarsha and others who are trying to transition out of temporary housing said Section 8 waiting lists, confusing application processes and not having proper documentation are some of the biggest obstacles.

“There’s still a possibility that I can lose. It’s a fear of mine,” said Juan Maisonet. “I just don’t want to do it no more.”

Maisonet said his life changed for the better when he was placed in a single room occupancy.

He fears what a return to the streets of Mass and Cass would mean for his fight to try to get clean.

“It’s like a fiesta… eating, cooking, laughing. The next thing you know, there’s somebody on the floor dying,” he said.

A Boston Public Health Commission spokesperson sent the following statement to Boston 25 News:

“Each person within this population has unique needs and requires resources from a continuum of services, such as health care, behavioral health care, substance use disorder treatment, harm reduction, housing supports, and more. The City of Boston’s focus is on connecting them with the appropriate services to support their health and wellbeing. The Mayor’s Office is working on a plan for the area during the fall and winter months to ensure the safety of this community as colder temperatures approach. This plan is a collaborative effort between the City, BPHC, BPD, and local community stakeholders and health care providers. More details about this plan will be available at a later date.”

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