The city of Boston plans to use a small island as a treatment facility to aid its homeless population, as well as those suffering from mental illness and those fighting drug addiction. The effort was announced by Mayor Michelle Wu (D) this week. The city hopes to rebuild the Long Island Bridge and construct a facility for the target population.
The island has been isolated since the bridge was destroyed in 2014 over safety concerns. It previously hosted a facility for addiction recovery.
The mayor said that the city could not “waste any time, any more time, on this project. This is about creating an island of opportunity that will connect people to the lives and community they deserve.”
The city has also received a crucial state permit for the speedy reconstruction of the bridge.
Boston has seen a significant increase in its homeless population in 2020. The spike of almost 25% brought the number of homeless to more than 1,500.
Furthermore, the city’s public health commissioner said that opioid abuse “overwhelms our system of care.” Boston has seen a significant increase in the number of opioid deaths over the last several years.
The mayor called the island’s former treatment facility a “regional public health campus” and the city allocated almost $120 million for the facility and bridge repair.
The effort has drawn some criticism from nearby communities. The Boston suburb of Quincy plans to appeal the city’s plan, referencing concerns over traffic and its potential environmental impact.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said a new state permit will allow the city to move forward with its years-long plan to tackle the opioid epidemic, by building a bridge out to a future 35-acre addiction-recovery campus on Long Island. https://t.co/tiZuKPFFsM
— Boston Herald (@bostonherald) August 11, 2023
Boston’s struggle with homelessness and drug addiction mirrors a number of cities dominated by the Democratic Party, including Seattle, Portland and San Francisco.
Portland recently passed an ordinance banning outdoor camping due to the high number of homeless in the city.
However, the law has not been fully enforced. Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said that he did not “see jail being used, realistically. Also, a fine seems a bit pointless to somebody who is indigent and can’t pay for anything as well.”
Portland hosts the largest share of Oregon’s estimated 18,000 homeless.